Gray Lace, Part 44

Egad!

Trevor leaves the safety of his 1908 Charleston hotel to check on his adventurous Catherine. He hopes to find her retreating on the Stafford roof for a rest from her difficult duties as their maid. He also hopes to convince her to revise her dangerous plans.

Catherine hopes to explore her childhood home next door to her undercover employment, and she hopes to retrieve her stolen trust fund. She leaves the Stafford roof and using an alley cover, she is pleased to be discovered by a sharply dressed Trevor, instead of a Pettigrew employee.

Page 82-83

Catherine trusted the Stafford family to remain asleep as she left her fourth floor closet; labeled home for a lady’s maid. She had stolen a few hours of sleep after some backbreaking work on her first day. “I’ll pay my maid five times as much, if I ever have another one. Oh God, the ironing!” As she worked her way up the attic stairs, she wished she could give up ironing for Lent, hopefully sooner.

She lamented the plight of working women everywhere, as she climbed the retractable folding ladder which led to the roof. She gratefully allowed the meager moonlight and ocean breezes guide her over and around the hidden obstacles and chimney pots. Easily gliding over the covered alley between the houses, she rediscovered the attic entrance she had used as a child. She had often retreated to the roof to talk to God when He had taken her mother. She continued their conversations when her father had remarried, and then died. She had hidden there even more often to avoid the abuses from her stepmother and her new family, the Pettigrews.

Those memories tried to block her breathing and progress, but she swallowed each ugly scene. She tested the rusty hinges on the wooden cover which led down to the attic Pettigrew attic. The creaking seemed deafening and non-productive. She tried a third time and she sweaty palms slipped. She lost her balance and would have slammed her back and head against a brick chimney standing in the darkness behind her, but welcoming arms gathered her chest and neck into a comforting male hug. Together they slid slowly and quietly to the rooftop floor. “Busy night?” Trevor kissed her cheek and gently rolled her to his side.

She did not understand why he was there, but she returned the kiss. “Thank you and yes, it’s been a very bust night indeed. Hopefully productive if you let me stand up.”

He smiled as he kissed the side of her face and helped her up. He worked on the entrance cover for a few nervous moments and managed to loosen it enough to open. “There, you should be able to use this later, if you must.” His head leaned a bit to his right. “We’ve woken someone. I hear voices below.” He turned her toward the Stafford roof. “Enough for tonight.”

Catherine started back, stopped, turned, and asked, “How did you get up here?”

“The Pettigrews have a handy fire escape.”

She led Trevor over the slippery alleyway cover and stopped at the Stafford’s attic entrance. “Thank you, but I don’t expect you to show up in my every time of need.”

“I’d like to,” he whispered as he leaned in, wrapped her closer, and tried to make a deal. “I’ll tell you all you want to know about my brothers, but please include me in your future and let me keep you safe.”

While trying to swim through her numerous feelings and possible responses, they heard a kitchen maid knocking wake-up calls on the servants’ doors below them. “I’ve got to go.” Rubbing her hands up and down his shirt front she noted his formal attire, his dragon slaying outfit.

He smiled, “Tomorow night, same time, same roof, different clothes.” He headed back to rest before he had to entertain Charleston’s elite, but he stopped when he heard her whisper, “Don’t give away those kisses too freely.”

He quickly returned to her, enveloped her, and dove in, with his hands where they shouldn’t be, but exactly where she wanted them.

Enough! Until Later.

Gray Lace, Part 43

Egad! I wish publishing was as easy as this. Slowly, dear reader, Gary Lace, my 4th novel, is reappearing. Trevor Coffman is worried about Catherine Randolph while acting the part of The Earl of Warrenwood to Charleston, SC in 1908.

To Trevor’s surprise, he did handle the evening at the Charleston Society League Ball. He mustered his strength into his frozen smile. His sore facial muscles and his aching back returned with him to his rooms later that evening.

He shut the door from the hall, leaned his back against it, and closed his eyes. Shaking his head from side to side with each comma he declared, “Ladies and Gentlemen, if I have to bow over the hands of a powdered, over-endowed, over-exposed, self-righteous, female, hypocrite, one more evening, I’ll kiss all the alligators in your swamp!” He opened his eyes, looked around the sitting room and slowly raised his eyebrows. “Where’s Catherine? It’s after midnight for God’s sake!”

“She’s gone.” Ross bravely answered and held up his hand to stop Trevor’s expected tirade. “She’s taken a position at the Staffords’ and yes, before you ask, they live next door to Pettigrews. They are new to Charleston, so they don’t know her.”

“Doing what, precisely?” Trevor tried not to yell, but the tightening of his throat was aiding his panic. He pushed away from his supporting door and glared at his friends.

“She’s a maid,” Joann had her hands folded in front of her, but her proud grin gave her attitude center stage.

“What’s her plan?”

“She wants to observe the Pettigrew’s schedule and get inside.”

“Oh, God,” Trevor marched through the room to the bay windows and peered down the street to the harbor. “She’s going after the proof, the trust fund papers, isn’t she?”

“Yup,” Ross replied.

“Why didn’t you stop her?”

“Trevor, Catherine’s her own person and she needs to do this,” Ross stood up and joined his friend at the view as they silently prayed for her safety. “She’ll be fine. She’s not stupid.”

“No, she isn’t,” Trevor softly agreed.

Enough! (for now)

Gray Lace, Part 42

Egad!

Yes, it has been too long, however, I do have a list of excuses: overnight guests, Covid, and procrastination brought on by ‘who-done-it-titist-mystery-reading’. Need more specificity? British historical mysteries by CS Harris (17) and DM Quincy (3). Oh, I’ve read them all, but I have an odd appreciation of re-reads and re-views. During a ‘re-do’, I notice more character traits, plot intrigue, and setting details. I’ve been known to watch a movie without the sound. I’m amazed at the details I had missed earlier.

In my own novels and manuscripts, I find more and more details, not mistakes. Not really. ; )

In Gray Lace, Trevor is lost. He’s in Charleston, in 1908, but he is expected to play the part of an aristocrat without the support of his Catherine. She has disappeared. Ross and Joann keep up the appearances of a valet and parlor maid while Jacob runs interference with the overly observant hotel management.

Chapter Eight, page 79

“I don’t know why you bothered to drag me back here. She won’t even speak to me,” Trevor squirmed under the clothing brush Ross swept across his shoulders.

“Stand still, my lord,” Ross spit out the title like a sour bit of collards, “while I attempt to get through your thick British skull.” He put down the brush onto the dressing table and walked around to stand between Trevor and the mirror. “She won’t speak to you because of that stubborn mule attitude that won’t allow you to satisfactorily answer her questions.” He concluded his lecture by gently slapping Trevor’s black velvet lapels.

“I’ve been measured, pushed, pulled, and attacked by the tailors with their scissors and pins and uncomfortable common questions and now you expect me to be kind?” He fortified his oxygen supply and frustration levels by inhaling, holding it, and then slowly exhaling. “Oh, Ross”, he whispered, “I think I love her.”

A short, thick, and sweet silence settled between the two friends. “Think or know?” Ross handed him the new evening top hat and cane.

They stared at the ornately carved wooden door as a gentle scratching announcement preceded Joann, “I knocked,” she declared after opening and hurrying inside.

“No, you didn’t,” laughed Ross. “But we love you anyway.”

“Shush. Quiet!” she closed the door and whispered, “There’s a Mr. and Mrs. Harold Winston and their daughter, Daphne, downstairs in the hotel tearoom. They sent their servant up to remain us about your appointment with them. Jacob went back downstairs with him to announce that you’d be there soon.”

“Oh, no, where’s Catherine?” he started his lordly pacing. He headed out of his room in a fierce march. “Why can’t she be here? She needs to be here!”

“Jacob’s doing a fine job, I’m sure.” Joann stole a glance at Ross, and she nearly fell over in surprise at his pleased grin behind Trevor’s back. He leaned closer to her face and whispered, “All will be well.”

Really?

Enough! (for now)

We shall rejoin our characters in their absconded suite of rooms in the 1908 Charleston hotel, The Paterson. Time is short before the required funding for poshness will be demanded.

Egad!

“Trevor left a short time ago,” Ross answered. “None too happy is my guess.” He gestured for Joann to relax in a large comfortable chair, and he rested his arms on the back. “Take deep breaths, our young miss, then explain why this staff is missing its master.”

Jacob patted Catherine’s hand. “May I offer a back rub?” At her positive nod, he kneaded the tension from her stiff back. “Well, where is our lordship and why has he gone?”

“He told me that he had cabled his family in England,” she absorbed the extra oxygen to continue. “And he informed me about his two younger brothers. I guess he wants my trust fund to care for his responsibilities since he gave up on the Cranfield money.”

“Did he say that? Did he ask you for money?” Jacob continued the back massage while he waited for an answer.

“Well, no.”

“Did he demand anything?” After a few quiet moments, Jacob’s wisdom mounted a counter-attack scenario. “Possibly your emotions prove you are falling for him far more than you are admitting.”

Catherine tossed an angry glare back in his direction. “What are you trying to explain?”

“My experience has taught me that if you’re angry, well then, you care.” Jacob stood and faced the other two. “What a ridiculous staff we make; a footman, a valet, and two maids, but no earl!” We need to get him back.” He placed his fists on his hips and titled his upper half toward them. “I realize that there are two sides to every coin and our earl has more story than we know.”

“I agree,” three faces turned toward Joann. She had been withdrawn since their Charleston arrival. They’d assumed it had been because of her fear of racially induced ugliness but hearing her usual commanding tone caught their attention and created their pleased expressions. “Trevor needs to be found and returned. Ross, as footman, you need to find and protect him. Check downstairs first. If he isn’t there, maybe ask the manager for names of pubs or grills. Jacob, as his valet, go out and start ordering clothing as if there isn’t a problem. Maybe start with fabrics and accessories. Tell the shopkeepers the Earl of Warrenwood will be in tomorrow for the measurements to begin.”

Catherine considered a dark possibility. “What if we cannot find him by then? Should I rove the streets too?” She was pleased that Joann leadership was back, the same Joann who taught her survival skills, had returned to them. This was the Joann who had saved them.

“Goodness, girl, no. Stop the negativity, besides you might be recognized,” she turned toward the men. “Well, why haven’t you gone, gentlemen?” She sweetened the order with a smile as she directed them toward the door. Once her soldiers had marched out, Joann advanced on Catherine. “You and I, my dear young lady, need to get busy on a trust fund retrieval plan.”

Enough! For now.

Author’s Note: No author’s notes today. I am not here yet. Egad!

When Trevor reached the windows for the third time, he stopped and stared at Charleston spread out like a carpet of possibilities. “I pray my brothers are not being taken for every penny I left them. I’d expected to be home by now.”

She couldn’t help herself, “With a wealthy bride?” Catherine started her own pacing, dreading where the answers would lead.

His hesitation turned him around and he searched the room to relocate his newest and prettiest problem. “Please don’t think that.”

“What?” She stopped still and faced him. “How dare you assume what I am thinking.”

“Money. Greed. You’re the one assuming. You think I’ve sent for them because I’ve discovered that you are close to finding your own fortune.” He slowly walked toward her, keeping his hands behind his back. “Well, you’re half right.”

He had well and truly shocked her. She froze. It gave him time to wrap his arms around her before she fled. She struggled from the hug and felt his reluctance, but he did let her go.

She noticed the heat first. Her cheeks and neck felt the fire of embarrassment and then the pain, the pain of betrayal. “Leave. Get out.” She waved toward the door.

“Catherine,” he whispered.

“Now, please.” She stood her ground and found the courage to hold onto her anger. She caught it before falling into the depths of his soothing light blue eyes.

His back snapped to a full military stand. She had the feeling she had crossed a line in his sand of acceptance and honor. He turned and had opened the door to the hotel hall and knocked Ross’s broader chest out of his way. Ross jumped back. With neither a word of apology nor explanation, Trevor turned toward the main stairs and disappeared.

“Great heavens, what was that all about?” Ross shot Catherine a concerned look and then visually searched the room for his wife. “Where’s Joann?”

“Joann?” she had forgotten. “Oh, she’s in there,” she pointed to the bathroom door and wondered how much Joann had heard, if anything. Shaking her head to clear the lingering pain, she asked her own question, “Where’s Jacob? You’re back fast.”

Ross headed to the bathroom door and watched it open to the beautiful smile he loved.

“Oh, Ross, it was lovely,” Joann sighed.

“What was?”

“After some experimentation, I drew the bathwater and soaked in the tub. What an absolutely wonderful experience, a sheer luxury.”

He laughed in relief to find her so happy and hugged her to prove it. “Um, you smell divine.”

Catherine sat on the couch slightly relieved as well. “Ross, tell me, where’s Jacob?”

“He’s waiting downstairs in the lobby. He met an old friend. They’ve been gabbing forever, and we haven’t even started on our quest for an Earl’s wardrobe.”

“Old friend? I hope he’s careful not to give us away.” Catherine closed her hands into a nervously fisted ball.

Nodding toward the door, Ross asked, “What’s wrong with him? What’s been going on here?” He held his Joann no further away than the length of his arms. “You look pleased, but what’s wrong with our Catherine and her Earl?”

Joann whispered in his ear, “I don’t know why, but they argued. I was in that rather delightful room,” she nodded her head behind her. Shaking her shoulders, she added, “It’s quite the room.”

Catherine slumped with a huff further back into the couch. “He’s a snob. I don’t know why I hadn’t seen it sooner.”

Before she could add any more complaints, Jacob came in wearing a smile of success. “I’ve found the help we need. There’s a haberdashery and a tailor willing to take us on with the hotel’s backing of our word. I ran into an old acquaintance who was surprised at my new position as a valet, but, …. Good heavens,” he sat beside the furious and weepy Catherine, “What has you in a dither?”

Enough! (until next time)

Egad!

Author’s Note: After watching, no absorbing, hours of The January 6th Committee hearings, I needed to calm down. I scanned Netflix and Prime Video for horror movies. I nearly signed up for a few more expensive and never-to-be-released-from entertainment streams before I remembered my childhood carnival-rides mantra. “Why pay for fear? Why spend money to be afraid? Why would I? It’s free?”

page 72, Joann, Ross and Catherine wait for their friends in a luxury suite of 1908’s Patterson’s Hotel of Charleston, South Carolina.

Joann raised her water glass in a toast, “Sucess comes from living well, laughing often, and loving much.”

“Well said,” Catherine gave her a smile, as she turned to answer the knock on the hall door. She opened the door to a humble Trevor whose eyes were wide as he entered and surveyed the splendid room. Jacob followed him and then shut the door.

“This isn’t our railroad car now, is it?” He gave Catherine a quick hug then walked around the perimeter before stopping to enjoy the city view. “The clerk at the desk sure acted strange.” He turned around and directed his question to Catherine. “How is it he knows my title? He introduced me to the manager, who then offered to take my servants to the docks to retrieve my luggage.”

With his hands in his pockets and the warm smirk on his dimpled face, Catherine wasn’t sure how to go on. He looked adorable. However, she wondered, just where had that man been? “Yes, your footman and valet need to go to the docks and take care of that. They could also buy some needed clothes for you on hotel credit. Your title will cover a list of sins that can be repaid someday soon.”

Jacob walked across the room and pulled Ross by his elbow. “Wish us luck and while we’re gone, please work on that plan some more. Your trust funds won’t jump through those windows all by themselves.” Ross gave Joann an encouraging smile and he shut the door behind them.

“Catherine, I need the outhouse … no, the necessary,” announced Joann.

Catherine pointed to the smaller rooms off to the left. “You should not have to watch for spiders in that outhouse, Joann. In fact, I think you’ll enjoy it.” Joann hurried out, shut the door and Trevor smiled at Catherine as they heard exclamations of surprise. “She’ll like the flushing the best.”

“I was going to guess the toilet paper,” he laughed.

“Now, Mr. Earl, just where did you hurry off to? We can’t have our group disbursing themselves.” She sat in a comfortable stuffed armchair opposite Trevor and tried to stare him into telling her the truth.

“Yes, that was poorly done of me,” he sat and then uncrossed his legs and leaned forward, resting his elbows onto his legs. “I sent a telegram,” he lifted his head, and she watched the wrinkles of turmoil develop across his forehead.

“To whom? The Cranfields?” Her palms began to feel moist. “Surely you didn’t tell them where we are?”

“No, not the Cranfields, although I do need to deal with them soon. I sent a telegram to my two younger brothers, Edward and Charles.”

She rubbed her hands together, then willed them to be calm and steady in her lap. “I suddenly realize how little I about you.” She took in extra air and whispered, “Tell me about your family.”

Trevor smiled and began, “Well, Edward’s the surprisingly shy one and Charles is the party boy.” He stood and started pacing. “They need guidance even under the best of circumstances.”

“How old are they?”

“They’re in their minority, both under twenty-five.”

“Parents?”

“My mother died when Charles was born, and father passed several years ago.”

“So, you’re not new to the earl business.”

His shoulders jerked as if he had been hit.

Enough! (for now)

This author’s update:

Egad!

Life keeps interrupting, but I managed to complete “Edits II” of my WIP – The Countess of Change. More editing is needed, but a break is needed more. During this break, attention will be paid to this blog, research possible agents and their varied requirements, and then there’s the dreaded Synopsis of The Countess. By the way, that’s a working title. It might end up being The Empire Awakens or some such noble stuff.

Our story here, Gray Lace, my dear sweet novel of 1908 (originally published in 2016) has progressed her characters from the swamps to a suite of hotel rooms in Charleston, SC. They have just arrived, and Catherine is anxious to retrieve her fortune while Ross gives her some advice.

Writing historical mysteries is soothing to me after the events of this month and June is only ten days old.

Page 70 – The Patterson Hotel

The pleased management presented a smooth registration and welcome to the staff of The Earl of Warrenwood. As asked, they climbed the back stairs and searched for the suite of rooms assigned to their master. Ross nervously opened the door and said out loud what they were all thinking. “We should have thought of his luggage. He should be traveling with several trunks and boxes.”

“At least his title covered most of our sins,” Catherine walked around the spacious and comfortably furnished sitting room. “It’s a good thing the manager believed the luggage is still at the docks.”

Joann tried each chair before she settled on the Victorian high back couch. “He’ll have to do a bunch of shopping before he settles in for the night.”

Jacob had been studying the view with his hands behind his back. He turned and suggested that he wait for Trevor in the lobby. “I’ll take the part of his valet and loudly inform him about his lost luggage.” He smoothed out a few wrinkles and straightened his coat. “I have the feeling the management will be eager to help.” He started for the door, “In addition, I doubt we’ll have to pay for anything until we leave.”

His laughter followed him out the door.

Ross drew in his long legs from the comfortable chair and crossed his feet at the ankles. “I’m beginning to really like that man.”

Catherine had been pacing the length of the room and completed several laps before standing still. “We need a plan. This place will only believe us for a few days at the most. ” She walked back to the window facing the street. “My infamous bank is right there. It’s only one block over. I feel like I could reach out and grab my trust fund papers from the safe deposit box.”

“I’ve robbed from an occasional box of groceries, but a bank is beyond my talents, young miss.”

“Ross, you’ve never stolen,” Joann continued her twitching with her hands in her lap. “Maybe, Catherine, we shouldn’t plan anything until all of us are here.”

Catherine knew she was overly anxious, but she glared at her friend anyway. “Don’t you think we can do this? We’ve managed quite well without Mr. Newsome and The Earl before.”

“Slow down,” Ross stood, joined Catherine, and gazed out her window. “Yes, we’ve done well, but that was in the sticks of alligator country. This is the big city and Joann and I are a bit out of our element.” He pointed down to the busy street three floors below. “Look at those folks. Their clothes are all clean, stiff and stylish, I guess, but when you get a chance, look in their eyes. Behind the supposed happiness, there’s greed and all the stresses and worries that brings.”

Enough! (for now)

Chapter 7 starts with this quote: “Teamwork divides the task and multiplies the success.” Author Unknown. Our characters are beginning to understand how to divide their talents to achieve their goal; retrieve Catherine’s inheritance. Their office of Planning and Development is in the basement of Jacob’s Synagogue, Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim in Charleston.

Egad! page 68

“Mr. Newsome, please don’t feel that you have to help or even stay with us,” Catherine enjoyed the large pieces of tomatoes and mushrooms in the last few bits of warm soup and hoped he’d argue with her.

Thank fully, he did. “Mr. Newsome is it? Are we back to formality? It’s Jacob, call me Jacob, and yes, you’re stuck with me unless you vote me off the team.”

Catherine smiled at him in thankfulness and asked, “Jacob, do you recall a large hotel at the corner of Meeting and Webster? Perhaps I can convince Lord Coffman to supplement my non-existant funds until I can retrieve my own.”

A muffled retort came from the gentleman nudging her side. “Trevor,” he managed to correct her through the bread recently dunked into his soup and stuffed into his appreciative mouth.

“Yes, it was there when I left, but moved out of this fair town before you were forced to do so.” Jacob reminded her in kindness.

“Wait,” Trevor interrupted. “Why don’t you fine folks check into this hotel you spoke of? Catherine, here, please take some money.” He pulled several bills from his wallet and also gave her a quick kiss on her cheek. “I’ll join you in an hour or so. If for some reason things don’t work out, we’ll meet back here.” He stood and approached the waiter, gave him a donation before heading up the stairs to the outside.

“Gracious, that was fast. Where’s he going? What’s going on? Did I miss something? Joann gave Catherine a worried look. “By the way, have you forgotten how I’ll be received in any hotel in the center of this town?”

Catherine hugged her upper arm and said, “I’ve no idea what his lordship is up to, but I do have an idea that whatever it is, he’ll serve us well. And in my plan, all of us will have to behave as his humble servants.”

“That I can do,” Joann lamented.

“What are you thinking, Miss Catherine?” Ross had finished his third helping of soup and bread and was savoring his warm mug of coffee. “I can see the wheels turning in that fine mind of yours. Tell me, what is our next adventure?”

She drew in a deep breath before explaining to the group that they would all be acting as servants to the Earl of Warenwood. “I’ll bet all the hotels will want his business.”

“He’s not that way,” Jacob noted. “He doesn’t act the snob.”

“No, he isn’t,” Catherine explained to her valued friends. “He’ll have an acting job, too. You see, it’s debutant season both here and in London. He’s used to this, and he’ll know how to act the part. He’ll need his staff of servants to complete the drama.” She checked for spies and eavesdroppers, although she really didn’t expect any. “The mothers of young debutants will horse whip anyone who tries to stop them from flaunting their daughters in front of an English title. Therefore, they’ll spend money in any hotel sheltering that title. He’ll need a valet, a footman, and two wardrobe maidens. Won’t he?”

She enjoyed the silence and then they marveled, “Catherine, you’re amazing,” Ross sat back and seemed relaxed for the first time since they left their lake. “This hotel will serve as a great hide out for Joann as well as a place to plan our next step without fear of being found.” He wiped his mouth with the napkin and placed it next to his empty bowl. “I hope. Well, it’s worth a try and oh, when that Englishman of yours returns, we need to question him. He never said where he was headed. We can’t work together like that.” He shook his head and sighed, “But we shouldn’t proceed without a vote, and shouldn’t he have one? Do we wait for him?”

“He’s not an American. He’s not used to democracy,” Catherine responded, nodded with a grin, and stood. She thanked their waiter and the cooks as Jacob and the others worked the room as well. They walked up the steps to the outside in a much better frame of mind than when they went in.

Enough! For Now.

Author’s Note: Today I will “publish” the beginning of Chapter Seven from my Gray Lace novel, a 1908 mystery set in my swamp just outside my window. We just experienced a 70-degree cold snap here in our eastern Carolina lake-town. Wearing a sweater, but planning tomorrow’s shorts, I’m excited to announce that my WIP is preparing to enter the Edit II phase and I’m struggling with its synopsis.

A synopsis is similar to trying on old clothes; fitting a 62,000 word count into 500.

Egad!

page 67, our characters explore Charleston, SC

After several blocks, Trevor was amazed at the unexpected civilization and genteel architecture. Catherine was soothed by the familiarity of her hometown. Jacob purposely marched ahead as if he anticipated the comforts of home. Ross slugged behind Joann with a frown at anyone who dared to glare at his wife, and she kept her head down in prayers for their safety.

She raised her head to take in the scenery when Jacob led the group down a shady side lane next to an amazingly beautiful white building. “Wow”, she whispered as she gawked at the shinney windows and white columns supporting a portico decorated with detailed ornaments. Her jaw dropped and head leaned back.

“Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim,” Jacob told her.

“What?”

“My synagogue”

“What?”

“My church,” he smiled when he recognized her understanding.

“This doesn’t look like anything I went-to-meeting-in,” she turned to Catherine and lowered her voice to ask, “What is it? Episcopal?” She waited while Catherine put her arms around her shoulders and gave her a hug. “Hey, wait, do I smell food?” She interrupted her own question.

“This way my friends.” Jacob directed. “Downstairs is where we’ll find safe shelter, fine friends, and delicious food.” He didn’t have to talk them into it. The stomach rumbling aromas tugged them down a set of steps leading into a large noisy basement. There were a dozen long wooden tables with clean place settings and empty bowls.

Jacob picked up a bowl and they followed him through a line of servers giving them hot vegetable soup and a large piece of warm soft bread. Once they were seated, a tall silent man with a welcoming smile came to their table and filled their drinking mugs with hot coffee.

“Not bad for a cold morning,” Ross commented after several mouthfuls.

“Not too shabby for a free meal,” Trevor grinned over the lip of his mug at Ross.

“Not underappreciated,” Catherine sighed. “Jacob, thank you. Is there a place we can leave a donation of thanks?”

“I’m sure there is. Our server will answer any questions. I haven’t been home in several years, but I’m very glad to see they still have this warm shelter for anyone who walks in.”

“Anyone?” Joann had not finished with her amazement.

“Our group is so diverse it proves a difficult test for any non-tolerance. Since we haven’t been kicked out, I think it’s safe to assume, yes, Joann, anyone,” smiled Jacob. “Now, my friends, as we begin to relax our hunger, shall we plan our next few steps?”

Enough! for now

First, an author’s note: The spring season has caught up with my swamp. The alligators are numerous and the Mayflies are confused. The length of the lawn-grass worries my favorite gardener and our lake is often angry when the sea winds arrive from the Atlantic not far away. Still, I enjoy reading and writing on our pier as the birds complain that I’m interrupting their mating season, but the fish are on the bed so the stink is amazing. My WIP Draft #2 is complete and today is a break from 1908 Irish Gun Running. Today, I’ll “publish” the ending to Chapter Six of my Gray Lace, a 1908 mystery set in this swamp.

Gary Lace, page 65.

Jacob Newsome compliments Joann Garrett’s positivity and our group sets out on their Charleston adventure.

“Your attitude will get us far, Mrs. Garrett,” Jacob started a low hum of a lively tune before turning east toward the harbor. “Let’s go, my new friends. There’s a friendly retreat not far from here with warm breakfast made just for us.”

Ross Garrett mumbled, “In your dreams”

“Mr. Garrett, take a lesson from your pretty wife. If positive thoughts take seed, the plant grows.”

Ross stopped his forward march. When his friends realized he hadn’t kept up, they turned to face him with frowning facial questions.

“There’s something you should all know before any more danger and troubles head our way.”

“In the rain!” Trevor Coffman had his arm on his hip and his other arm lifted his rifle to his shoulder but pointed it to the soggy heavens. “Are you Americans still fighting that old war? It’s over!”

“Not for everyone,” mumbled Ross, “especially here.”

“Oh, good grief, shall we get out of the rain, feed our hunger, and make a plan? We need a successful campaign.” Trevor stared forward once again.

Catherine Randolf laughed and caught up with Trevor. Over her shoulder she told the Garretts, “He’s a bit wordy, but he’s right.” She faced forward and urged Jacob, “Lead on, Mr. Newsome.”

Egad!

Enough for now!