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This is how I picture my hero and heroine. So romantic!!
Here is the very rough draft of my first chapter. What do you think of my Victorian romance??
I must save the boy!
Madison Haywood breathed deeper and squeezed her eyes closed as she clutched the lost little boy’s boot to her chest. She ran the pad of her finger over the laces and onto the rough brown leather. He’d been wearing this boot before he disappeared, and she was anxious to find him. But if someone told her to try harder one more time, her head would explode. Indeed! One did not merely ask a woman with her type of gift for assistance and then continue to push them until they received answers.
She tried to block out Inspector Johnson’s high-pitched, frantic voice, in order to concentrate on the missing child. Madison focused on clearing her head of any other image besides the lad’s boot. She couldn’t think about how she stood inside the inspector’s office while two other men helping with the investigation stared at her with judgmental eyes. Madison realized that not everyone would believe in her visions. Most people called her an impostor, in fact. She was used to that treatment from other people.
Pushing all of her negative thoughts aside, she concentrated harder. The deeper she breathed the more her body and mind calmed. Slowly, the images faded from her mind of Mr. Clarkston’s middle-aged pocked blanched face, and his son who was perhaps in his late twenties wearing a white lawn shirt that stretched tight against his wide chest.
A strong scent of coffee drifted around her, and she even pushed that from her thoughts. The elder Mr. Clarkston noisily sipped at his coffee while his son drummed his fingers on the desk, but Madison tried not to focus on their distracting presence. Those unbelievers drove her insane sometimes. Thankfully, she knew how to block them out of her mind.
Just as she was finally able to put everything aside, the boy’s face grew clearer in her head. Scratches marred his ten-year-old body, and dirt smudged his face. His reddish-blonde hair matted all over his head. A small amount of dried blood stained his ear. He wore one boot, and it was wet, as were the bottom of his trousers.
But he was alive. At least for now.
She couldn’t hear any sounds around him, but not very often did her visions allow the sound to come through. From what she could tell, he was outside in the woods. He sat on a fallen tree, eating… She breathed deeper, trying to focus on the food going into his mouth, but her vision wasn’t visible enough for her to determine the object. All around him were trees that were lying on the ground instead of rising toward the sky. However, the lad was alone. She couldn’t see anyone around him.
The boy’s frightened eyes darted all around him. His chest rose and fell with quick breaths. Finally, her vision opened up a little sound, but it was only his heartbeat, hammering out of control. His mouth moved, but Madison heard no words, but she recognized his lips forming the words Ma and Pa. It helped that Madison had learned to read lips as a child.
“I see him,” Madison whispered. Still blocking out the sounds in the room, she continued to describe her vision to the detectives. “He’s in the woods. Fallen trees are all around him. He’s scratched, but he’s fine.”
“Do you see who kidnapped him?” Inspector Johnson asked in a tight voice.
“No. He’s alone.”
Madison zeroed in on the trees. That might help her decide what part of the woods the boy was in. After all, there were only a few glades like this around London. At first she couldn’t see anything that would give her a clue, but then the boy leaned over and scooped up a handful of some kind of rusty, orange-colored shavings. Next to his hand was an axe.
Realization hit her, and she gasped, taking a step back. It was then when someone’s large hand grasped her arm. She kept her eyes closed and muttered, “Woodcutters.”
In a split second, the vision disappeared. Blinking, she tried to regain her senses as she entered the real world again. Inspector Johnson’s brown eyes were wide and his mouth hung agape. Mr. Clarkston’s face was even paler—if that was possible. And his son…well, some people would never believe in her gift no matter how many times she had proven them wrong. The younger Clarkston released Madison’s arm, folded his arms across his chest, and arched a judgmental eyebrow.
“Woodcutters?” The inspector scratched his long, bushy brown sideburns. “I say, Miss Haywood, I’m not certain what you mean by that. Judge Gruber is not acquainted with any woodcutters that I know about. Why would they have taken his grandson?”
The younger Mr. Clarkston snorted a laugh. “Did I not tell you she was deceitful? This is all an act. I’ll stake my career as a barrister upon it.” He rolled his eyes.
Madison sat on the edge of the desk. Her visions had always weakened her for a few moments. She’d never figured out why, but those unbelievers thought this was part of her performance. She was exhausted with trying to convince them otherwise.
“We have to trust her,” Inspector Johnson snapped, aiming a scowl at the younger man. “We have no other leads.”
The younger Clarkston grumbled. “This is all hogwash.” He motioned his hand toward Madison. “I cannot believe a word that comes out of her mouth. The next thing you’ll tell us is that she speaks to dead people as well.”
Madison couldn’t hold her tongue any longer. “Actually,” she began as she tapped her booted heel on the floor, “I can talk to dead people, but only if they allow it. If you’d like, I could ask that ghost standing behind you now…”
The man hitched a breath and swung around, looking behind him. Madison held back the laugh ready to spring from her throat. However, she couldn’t stop the grin stretching her mouth.
The man growled and turned back to face her. He laughed slowly and forcefully. “You are not very humorous, Miss Haywood.”
Madison shrugged as her mouth still twitched into a grin. “I disagree. I think I was rather funny just then.”
“Augh!” The inspector shoved past the large man, and moved closer to Madison. “Harry, leave her be. She has gotten more from her vision than the three of us together have been about to find, so give her a chance.” Inspector Jonson met Madison’s gaze. “You said Woodcutter. Why?”
Madison swallowed the dryness in her throat, looking from the man’s desperate gaze to the way he wrung his fingers against his middle. “In my vision, the boy scooped up wood shavings. They looked to be fresh. Fallen trees were all around him, which tells me he’s somewhere in the woods where woodcutters have been. And there was an axe by his feet. The bottom of his trousers were wet, as well.”
“Hmm…” The inspector paced the small area in the room. “Woods and water.” He stopped and switched his gaze to Madison. “Is it possible that the boy is in Bromley?”
The elder Mr. Clarkston choked on his coffee, and placed the mug on the desk. “My cousin is a Woodcutter. He and his crew have been working in that area.”
Madison swung her hand toward the door. “Then gentleman, I suggest you leave immediately and investigate this further before you lose anymore sunlight. Judge Gruber’s grandson appeared weak. His face was—” she peered at the middle-aged man and stopped herself before she added paler than yours, “extremely white, and his eyes appeared sunken in.”
The inspector dashed around the desk and grabbed a pistol. “Let us go now.”
“You cannot be serious,” Harry Clarkston whined as he shook his head.
Inspector Johnson scowled at the younger man and shoved a pointed finger into his wide chest. “I’m very serious. I’d rather look into this lead than have to tell the judge that the boy is dead. And if, by chance, the boy is in the woods and we don’t look into the matter and he dies, I don’t want to see his parents’ sad expressions, or see the accusing scowl from the judge. I particularly don’t want the guilt of knowing that I could have perhaps stopped this boy’s death, but I didn’t because you had reservations about the woman’s visions.”
“As you wish.” Harry held up his hands in surrender. “We shall go, but if the boy is not there—”
“Then you will hear my apology.” The inspector nodded. He straightened and plopped his hat on his head. His gaze met Madison’s. “I would like you to stay here. We shall return before nightfall.”
Madison bit her tongue. Should she argue? What could she possibly do in the inspector’s office for that long? There was literally nothing for her to do. Twiddling her thumbs wasn’t a very productive activity. For certain, she would go insane with boredom during the long wait.
Slowly, she released a frustrated breath and nodded. She must do what the inspector asked of her. This boy needed to be found soon. The sun would be descending within four hours, and once darkness covered the land, it would be impossible to find the missing lad.
“I shall wait,” she muttered.
Inspector Johnson led the way out of the room, and the other two men followed without saying another word. Madison meandered out into the large main room and found an empty chair. As she glanced at the other policemen working for Scotland Yard, it was hard not to notice their distrustful stares aimed right at her as though she’d grown two heads. Or horns. Or even a tail. Most people didn’t believe she was human because of what she was able to do.
She should be used to this kind of silent treatment, but she wasn’t.
Since she was in her seventh year, she knew something was different about her. Over the years, it had become very difficult to convince people of her abilities. And now, almost twenty years later, her situation hadn’t improved much. In fact, the only thing that had improved was her acceptance with her gift.
Because she was different than the other children in school, Madison had lived a lonely life. She had a handful of close friends, and that was all she needed to make her happy.
Sadly, though…she wasn’t truly happy. Then again. Was anyone?
She slumped in the uncomfortable chair and stretched her legs out in front of her. The tips of her boots peeked from underneath the brown and green gingham dress she wore. With brown-gloved hands, she smoothed a few of the wrinkles that had gathered since she’d arrived not too long ago.
Strange how her day had progressed so far. After breakfast, a rider came to see her. Madison had been staying with her best friend, Josephine and her husband on an extended visit. The visitor from the Post let her know that Inspector Johnson needed to see her on important business. Madison suspected her friend had something to do with it, because of the bright spots of pink brightening on her cheeks.
Josephine had been friends with Madison since they were in their tenth year. She was the first girl to accept Madison’s gift without judging her or thinking she was a fraud. About a week ago, Josie told Madison that she should be assisting Scotland Yard…that these men needed her. Madison had never pushed her gift on anyone, and she wasn’t going to start doing it now.
She lifted her gaze and slowly took in everything—and everyone—in the room. Two men wearing uniforms stood against the other wall, talking in low voices. They had mud on their boots, which told Madison they had previously been out on a case.
One older, gray-haired woman sat at the desk of one of the other officers, pleading with heartfelt sobs for someone to help her find her lost dog. She clutched the brown rope, turning it over and over in her hands. The officer assisting her definitely didn’t appear as if they truly wanted to help the old woman.
A young woman, perhaps in her very early twenties, sat by the two officers near the wall. The woman’s swollen eyes were filled with tears and she dabbed a white handkerchief to her cheeks as the tears rolled down her face. Occasionally, the woman peered Madison’s way, but then quickly dropped her gaze to her lap.
Madison closed her eyes and rubbed her forehead. This was going to be a very long day. Already it had seemed like she’d been here for hours, and yet it had probably only been forty-five minutes. A good fifteen minutes of that time was spent trying to convince Mr. Clarkston and his pompous son, that maybe she could actually be of some use to their case. For some reason, the inspector had previously been convinced that Madison could help. She still had yet to find out just why he knew—and accepted—her gift.
The older woman’s sobs had Madison opening her eyes to look at the lady.
“Please, Officer,” the woman begged as she leaned forward on the desk, “I know someone has stolen my husband’s prized Labrador. Tobias is the best there is.”
“Uh…Tobias?” The officer tilted his head and narrowed his gaze on the older woman. “Is that your husband or your dog?”
The old woman huffed. “That’s my dog, of course.”
Madison held back a grin.
“Well you see, Mrs. Inman,” the man strummed his beefy fingers on the desk. The lack of sympathy in his tone let Madison know he didn’t plan on doing anything to help the woman. “We are Scotland Yard Officers. We don’t help with missing dogs cases.”
“But don’t you see?” She twisted the rope in her hands. “I think someone has kidnapped him, and…what if they want a ransom? Tobias is worth a lot of money.”
Madison placed her hand over her mouth to keep from smiling. Although the situation was far from being humorous to the old woman, Madison couldn’t help but smile over the concern the woman had for her prized Labrador.
Mrs. Inman held up the leash. “I don’t usually have Tobias on a rope, but this morning, he had seemed jumpy, so I decided to tie him up so I could travel into town to visit my grandchildren. When I returned, Tobias was gone.”
Madison studied the leash. She wasn’t very far from the old woman, and so it was easy to glance over the object. Immediately, she noticed something that obviously, the other woman had overlooked. Should Madison say something? Yet, she had always helped people in need anyway she could.
She stood and cleared her throat. “Excuse me for interrupting,” she stepped beside the older woman, “but I think I might know what happened to your dog.”
The officer’s skeptical expression with the curled up lip irritated Madison more than the older woman’s curious eyes.
“Miss Haywood.” Irritation laced the officer’s voice. “I have this handled, but I thank you for trying to assist.”
Madison shrugged. “Yes, I can clearly see you have this handled, however, I just thought I’d let the woman know her dog wasn’t stolen.” She turned to move back to her chair, but the old woman touched Madison’s shoulder. She met the woman’s gaze.
“What do you know about Tobias?” the lady asked in a shaky voice.
Madison didn’t wait to get permission from the officer, and instead, pointed at the leash. “Do you see where your dog has chewed the rope? This tells me that your dog freed himself from the leash.”
The woman sucked in a breath as her hand flew to her throat. “Oh, my. I didn’t even realize it had been chewed.”
“I’m certain your dog didn’t go very far,” Madison assured her as she reached out to place her fingers on the rope. The moment her skin made contact, a scene flashed in her head. The Labrador was someplace dark and damp…and enclosed. The light brown fur of the animal had turned nearly black from mud, and clumps of twigs matted in the animal’s fur. The dog’s paws were wet, and Tobias shivered as he whined.
“Mrs. Inman?” Madison asked the old woman. “Do you know if there is a canal near your home?”
The woman’s face paled. “Y-yes there is. Why do you ask?”
“I believe that’s where you can find your dog. He’s trapped in the canal.”
“How…how do you know?” she asked warily.
The officer snorted and flipped a beefy hand in the air. “Miss Haywood thinks she has visions.”
“Indeed?” The woman’s eyes widened even more, of that were possible. “I’ve never heard of such a thing.”
“Well, Ma’am, I’ve been having visions since I was a young girl.” Madison folded her arms. “When I touched the dog’s rope, I pictured him inside a dark, damp, hole that resembled a canal.” She released a deep breath. “If you like, I shall go with you to find him.”
Gratitude danced in the woman’s brown eyes. “Oh, yes—”
“That won’t be necessary,” the officer cut in. “I’ll have one of the officers assist Mrs. Inman.”
Madison held up her hands in surrender. “You will? I thought you just told Mrs. Inman that Scotland Yard—”
“I know what I told her,” the officer snapped. The man moved his gaze to the men standing by the other wall, and he motioned for one to come over. “Escort Mrs. Inman back to her home and the search the canal for her dog.”
“Uh…her dog, Sir?” the other officer asked.
“You heard me.” He pointed to the older woman. “Get on it immediately.”
“Of course, Sir.” The officer assisted the older woman out of her chair.
Mrs. Inman smiled at Madison. “Thank you so much. You’re a Godsend.”
Grinning, Madison walked back to her chair and sat. She couldn’t count how many people she had helped over the years. But in all of those times, she’d only been wrong twice. She enjoyed seeing the smile of gratitude on their face. Their joy brought happiness to Madison. And it also made it easier to dismiss people like Mr. Clarkston and his pretentious son.
She released a sigh and traced her gloved finger along a white stripe on her dress. Stillness had settled over the room, but she didn’t look up this time. Knowing she’d helped that old lady out made her content.
At least for now.
Within minutes, the floor creaked nearby Madison, accompanied by the rustling of a woman’s dress. She lifted her attention. Standing right in front of her was the younger woman who’d been crying.
“I would like to hire you,” she said softly. “I couldn’t help but overhear what you did with Mrs. Inman,” she pointed toward the door, “and I need your special type of help.” She sat on the empty chair beside Madison. “I have the funds to pay, I assure you.”
Shock washed over Madison. This certainly had never happened before. “What…do you need me to do?”
“My younger sister has been missing for two days. My brother is an officer for Scotland Yard, as was our father before him, God rest his soul. My brother is at his wit’s end trying to find dear little Rosie, but I fear that he will sink into the same melancholy as our father had when one of his missing persons cases went unsolved.”
Madison’s chest tightened. How could she turn the girl down now? And yet, she really didn’t want to. Something inside of her leapt at the chance to show another officer with Scotland Yard just exactly what she could do. Men like Harry Clarkston needed to be brought down a notch or two.
“Do you live here in London?” Madison asked, hoping she didn’t have to travel very far. After all, her belongings were still at Josephine’s house.
The girl shook her head. “We live in Illford.”
The name of the town struck her like frigid water being dumped over her. It nearly froze her body and her mind. She couldn’t go there! Her parents had died in that horrid town when she was just a child in her sixth year. For years afterward, her uncle and aunt’s nightmarish-type stories about her parents death—and how the town was to blame—had brought fear to her as if the same fate would come upon her if she returned.
No. She couldn’t go there. Not even to help a missing girl. Taking a deep breath, Madison prepared to give the young woman a plausible excuse why she couldn’t help. But as she opened her mouth, the young woman grasped Madison’s hands tightly. Her green eyes pleaded with desperation.
“Please, Miss. You are our only hope. If you cannot help us, I fear not only my sister will die, but so will my brother.” A tear leaked out of her red, puffy eyes to travel down her moist cheek.
Silently, Madison groaned. But she must turn away the request. Although she’d vowed to help anyone she could…this just couldn’t be done. Not when she was so frightened to step foot inside the town.
Once again, she opened her mouth to refuse, but a memory intruded. She’d assisted a dying man to reunite him with his children. So grateful for what Madison had done, he made her promise on his deathbed, that she would never hide her gift. His words echoed in her head, God has given you this talent, which means you must share it with others. If you don’t, what is the use of having a gift from the Lord?
Her heart sank. Returning to Illford would certainly be an unbearable obstacle, but it was one she would have to face, nonetheless. Hadn’t she been able to accept her visions even though she’d been ridiculed and tormented? So if she could hurdle that obstacle, she could get through anything!
Putting on her best smile, she nodded. “I hope I don’t disappoint. I shall try to find your sister.”
Relief poured over the young woman’s expression and more tears streamed down her face. “Oh, thank you Miss Haywood.” Sniffing, she wiped her cheeks. “My name is Alice Wentworth.”
“It’s nice to meet you.” She breathed slower, hoping it could calm her racing heart. “So are you meeting your brother here?”
Alice shook her head. “He doesn’t know I’m here. When I arrived, he was out on a case.”
The door to the office swung open so fast, it smacked the wall. A gush of wind blew in leaves and debris, followed by a tall man with heavy boot-steps. The young woman sucked in a quick breath and swung toward the man talking long strides toward them.
“Alice Louise Wentworth? What are you doing here?” The man’s deep voice boomed through the room like a canon blast.
When Madison got her first look at the man storming in the building, she lost her breath. He was impressive, not only in height but in his looks. His powerful shoulders that filled out his uniform were almost as eye-catching as his handsome face. He removed his tall hat with the Scotland Yard badge on the front, and his dirty-blonde hair had a slight wave to the fullness. When he neared, his eyes blazed as green as she’d ever seen.
He glanced her way briefly before turning his attention to his sister. His scowl would make anyone hold their tongue for fear of being reprimanded.
“I…I was waiting for you to return,” Alice spoke softly.
His chest rose and fell slowly and his body relaxed as he folded his arms. “Did I not instruct you to wait for me at home?”
Thankfully, his tone had mellowed a little. But he continued to appear very upset at his sister.
“You did, but…I can’t sit at home and do nothing. I want to help find Rosie.”
His square jaw hardened. “There’s nothing you can do,” he clipped.
“Perhaps, but,” Alice turned and clasped Madison’s hand, “I truly believe she is the answer to our prayers.”
Finally, Madison received the man’s full attention as his gaze skimmed over her from her ringlet-styled hair that flowed over her shoulders and down her back, over her gingham dress, and to her brown, leather ladies’ boots. When his gaze jumped up to meet her eyes, he arched an eyebrow.
“Indeed?” he said with a hint of sarcasm to his voice. “You believe a woman is the answer to our prayers?” He shook his head. “I think not, sister dear.”
Irritation boiled inside of Madison like water in a kettle hanging over a blazing fire. How dare he insult her merely because she was a woman! If she hadn’t already decided to assist Alice, this man’s attitude had made the decision for her. She’d always been a little stubborn, and this man made it easier for Madison to show her true colors.
Straightening her shoulders, she lifted her chin and looked at Alice. “When do you wish me to start?”
She sneaked a peek at Alice’s brother. His eyes widened and his mouth dropped open. Priceless. It was worth every second, even if she feared she’d be arguing up a storm with this particular man.