Copy Rights Reserved - Deborah Mitton - 2013

Published on Amazon - 2013 

Book 1 - A Murder of Crows Series 

Ten (crows) is for the Devil's Own Self

Line from a 1600's poem – Author Unknown

CITY OF ST. JOHN, LOWER CANADA

THE GREAT FIRE – JUNE 20, 1877

 It could very well be the greatest day in Michael McLaughlin's life, or his last.

With the first whiff of smoke in the air, Michael's mind dropped into a deep daydream so real that he was tempted to reach out and touch his grandfather's hand in the parsonage's parlour. The fireplace that had warmed them on that damp English evening bathed the room in gold and amber. His mother, still young and beautiful, was busy with her needlework. Her eyes often lifted to watch him read. His grandfather, although deep in thought as he prepared his Sunday sermon, gladly stopped his work to answer his only grandchild's questions. Michael felt safe and loved.

Fond childhood memories were few, however, for shortly afterwards their lives changed, and Seth Shaw was the cause. Michael's life since then had been a near total obsession to bring Shaw to justice. His evil deeds had touched everyone Michael had held near and dear to him, and destroyed many of them. At thirty-one years of age, Michael had no family of his own, and could count his friends on one hand with digits to spare. Today was the day he intended to take back his life.

Michael had been sitting in a pub on Prince William Street for what seemed to be hours, waiting for his informant to let him know Seth's whereabouts. He paid little attention to the conversations around him, but he was aware of the town's fire alarm, followed by word of a fire starting in old Joe Fairweather's building in York Point that afternoon. He watched the door from the security of his seat at the back of the pub. Many citizens had paused upon hearing the alarm, but the chatter of those who ventured into the pub indicated the fire would not amount to much. The patrons were deeply involved in discussions of previous fires that had plagued their city. No one seemed to be concerned, and Michael was preoccupied with his own thoughts and feelings.

In Michael's profession as Chief Inspector with Scotland Yard, he was accustomed to dealing with unsavory characters. He met many in the back alleys of London and quite a few equally unsavory though admittedly better-dressed ones in the parlours of England's elite. The man he was about to meet would rank among the worst.

Shawn McBride entered the tavern, shifting his eyes from one patron to another with hostile suspicion; any eyes that found his darted away in fear, such was his reputation among a certain element in St. John. He was a cautious man by nature and today was no exception. After sizing up the room, he began to look around for the lamb he hoped to fleece.

Michael stood and waved his hand, directing Shawn to his table, which was mostly hidden from view at the back of the pub. Heads turned as Shawn proceeded to the back booth; he was a very peculiar-looking rough character even for this pub.

The barkeep arrived at Michael's side and asked if he could bring him anything else. Shawn looked up at him.

"I'd like a pint of your finest, guv," he said with a deep raspy voice and a wink at Michael. Michael nodded his assent to the barkeep, who quickly returned with a pint for the newcomer, the whole time thinking the two of them the most unlikely pair he ever had seen. One was evidently a highborn gentleman if his clothes and manners were evidence, and the other vermin from the gutter itself. His thoughts turned to the middling pound or two earned this day, and as if in answer to his prayers, more of the curious fire watchers entered the pub. Soon, fully engaged with his new customers, he forgot the two in the corner.

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