Prologue: To A Historical Mystery, Work In Progress

Hartford, Connecticut

December 14, 1814

 

Five men in heavy woolen cloaks made their way through the blizzard towards the Hog’s Head.  They glanced around ensuring no one had followed them before pushing open the tavern’s heavy door.

A burst of hot air and the smell of spilt ale greeted them as they crossed the threshold.

“Close the bloody door!” Called Tom Stone, the tavern keeper.  “Unless you want to pay a few extra pennies for your lodgings, Jacob!”

The men shook the snow off as they casually assessed the room.  Because of the weather, the tavern was almost empty; few sane men would venture out on such a night.

“I told you the Hog would be ideal.  None of the esteemed gentlemen attending the convention would stay in this part of town.”

“It definitely has a local flavor,” agreed the plump man at his side.  His distaste apparent on his face.

“Lower your voice, Nicolas.  Your accent will draw unwanted attention.”  Jacob muttered.

A pretty wench stepped out of the kitchen, carrying a loaf of bread and a bowl of what looked to be some sort of stew.  She placed it in front of one of the locals, and then looked around the room to see if anyone needed her.

Lucy’s warm brown eyes lit up when she saw who was standing at the door.  Jacob Mills had been staying at her father’s inn for three weeks now.

Jacob, a handsome young lawyer from Boston, had wooed Lucy from the day he walked through the door of her father’s tavern and rented his best room.  The innocent Lucy had initially resisted his advances, common sense telling her that an important politician could not seriously consider marriage to the daughter of a tavern keeper. Jacob soon convinced her that his intentions were honorable.

As it was common practice for a woman to go into the marriage bed with some prior experience with her intended, it wasn’t long before she shared her favors with him.

Thus no one, including Tom, Lucy’s father, batted an eye when she threw herself into the tall blond man’s arms and kissed him lustily.

“Jacob, I didn’t think you would make it back tonight!”

“I wouldn’t want you warming someone else’s bed!”  He teased as he patted her backside.

Too in love to care about his blatant lack of respect, and wanting to exude a sophistication she lacked, she laughed gaily.  “You wicked man.  Do you have any idea what you’re doing to my reputation?”

“Our intentions are pure, so why worry?”

While she thought they had an understanding, her love had no intention of marrying her.  He was to marry his good friend John Russell’s daughter upon his return to Boston.  Lucy was a pleasant diversion who kept his purse full of the coins he would otherwise spend on whores.  He smiled at her eager young face and decided that he would give her a locket before he left.  That should please her.

Impatient to discuss the day’s events and share the news he recently received, Nicholas Osbourne interrupted the couple.  “If you two can spare us a moment, Jacob, I would like to get this over with as soon as possible.  Some of us are staying in more respectable accommodations and want to get back to them.”

Loyal to her government and annoyed by the insult, Lucy looked at him angrily. “What are you doing here?  Our countries are at war.”  Her voice got louder with each word.

Before she attracted unwanted attention, Jacob tried to smooth over the situation.  “Lucy, I have need of your father’s back room.  Why don’t you light a fire for us?”  When she looked like she would protest, he added, “I haven’t eaten since I left this morning.  Would you bring some ale, and bowls of that stew I smell?  My friends and I have much to discuss.”

Lucy frowned at the plump man who considered himself above the rest of them.  “But he’s English.”

“My love, things are not always as they seem, and not all Englishmen are our enemies.  You know the Hartford Convention starts in the morning.”

“Everyone knows that.”  The local men could talk of little else.  It was what brought Jacob to the Hog’s Head.

“There are important men attending it.  Not all are local.”  He stroked her face.  “I would appreciate your discretion in this matter.”

“Very well,” she demurred, not wanting Jacob angry with her, especially since he hadn’t yet asked her father for permission to marry her.  She did wonder what her Jacob saw in his friend.

She glanced up at the third man in their party, but he remained a silent figure in the shadows.  Shrugging, she went about getting the room ready for her love and his friends.

*************

Lucy woke the next morning in a foul mood.  Jacob had sent her away early in the evening after ordering a barrel of ale be left in the room.  He hadn’t joined her in bed.  She was certain he and his friends were passed out drunk in the back room.  A man had the right to get drunk on occasion, but she hoped it wouldn’t be a regular occurence.  She didn’t want to spend married life cleaning wine stains and vomit.

Determined to confront Jacob, she headed to the back room.  Before she reached the door, her father stopped her.  “Lucy, give the man some time to recover.  After the amount of ale he and his friends consumed last night, he won’t thank you for waking him this early.”

Lucy considered ignoring her father, but she knew he was right.  Instead of storming into the back room, she made her way to the kitchen to stoke the fire and begin her morning chores.

So, it was close to noon before Lucy peeked into the room and found the body.

All she could initially make out in the dark room was furniture turned over, and Jacob’s plump friend supine in a corner.  Shaking her head at the mess, she made her way across the room, and stepping in spilled ale, before throwing open the shutters.

As light poured in, she turned around to better assess the state of the room.  The sight that met her eyes caused her to let out a blood curdling scream.

Later, as she sat sipping some brandy, she couldn’t believe she hadn’t fainted.  The Englishman was dead.  His throat had been slit and there was blood everywhere.  The ale she had stepped in was a pool of blood.  There was no sign of Jacob or his silent friend.

Her younger brother had been sent to fetch the constable.  When Constable Bullock arrived, he asked all sorts of questions about the previous evening, the dead man, and his friends.  Lucy could tell that he and her father thought Jacob had killed the Englishman.  No matter what they said, she knew Jacob was innocent.

If Jacob had killed the man and ran, why had he left his cloak and hat in the back room?  He would have frozen to death in the storm.  She pointed out that his belongings were still in his room.  It didn’t matter.  Constable Bullock claimed that Jacob had panicked and abandoned everything.

In her heart, she knew he would have come to her, taken her with him, if he had killed the plump man.  She would have understood if Jacob had killed him.  But he didn’t do it.  She was convinced he was a victim in this situation, but no one would listen.  She had to pull herself together and find her love before it was too late.

  10 comments for “Prologue: To A Historical Mystery, Work In Progress

  1. February 6, 2018 at 6:30 pm

    I want to know what happens next even though I have a feeling I’m going to feel bad for Lucy.

    • jrusoloward
      February 6, 2018 at 8:10 pm

      Thanks, Eduardo! Perhaps Lucy will find an inner strength and learn some valuable lessons.

      • February 7, 2018 at 5:55 am

        Told from the third-person omniscient point of view – she could be murdered! ‘Let the police handle it, Lucy!’

      • jrusoloward
        February 7, 2018 at 3:32 pm

        True! Or she may not be a key player. She may just be the spark needed to set the fire under someone else.

  2. February 6, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    An interesting start. I’m looking forward to seeing how it progresses.

  3. February 7, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    I’m riveted! It’s been a while since you posted one of your cliffhangers. More, please!

    • jrusoloward
      February 7, 2018 at 3:31 pm

      Thanks! It’s the start of something a bit longer.

      • February 9, 2018 at 11:19 am

        I’ll be here whenever you’re ready to share more. Or a book, that works for me too 😀

  4. February 9, 2018 at 3:29 pm

    I love this! Looking forward to more. I adore historical fiction. History, mystery and fun all at the same time!

    • jrusoloward
      February 10, 2018 at 12:22 pm

      Thank you! I’m addicted to historical mysteries and fiction.

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