Here is an excerpt from my new book, Valentine's Revenge. It should be available in print, Kindle and NookBook formats some time in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!
August 14, 1845
“Where were you?” the pain-wracked voice rang from the wainscoted walls of the high-ceilinged room. Randolph Martin stood his ground stoically in the face of his friend’s anguished words. Lying in the stark hospital bed, covered in multiple layers of bandages, Cyrus Valentine resembled nothing so much as an Egyptian mummy-- a mummy with raging eyes flaming behind the blood-spotted linen wrappings. He had been severely burned in the tragic fire that destroyed his house and killed his family. While attempting to force his way into the fully-engulfed wreckage of his home to save his wife and infant son from the conflagration, Valentine had been struck on the head by a falling beam, slamming him to the flagstone floor of the portico before he could force his way inside.
Randolph Martin was not only an attorney who had graduated near the top of his class from Yale Law School, as had Valentine; he was also the captain of the local fire brigade. He had been across town at a dinner party when the alarm had sounded; without his leadership, the relatively untrained men of the recently established brigade had been late leaving the firehouse, and their unorganized and disjointed efforts once they arrived at Valentine’s house had been in vain. By the time Randolph arrived to bring order to the chaos, the house was a total loss. Valentine’s family was dead, and Valentine himself was in an ambulance racing to the hospital.
“I’m so sorry, Cyrus; I was across town, ” Randolph tried to console his distraught friend. “I got there as quickly as I could.”
“You should have been…” Cyrus began.
“I’m not clairvoyant, Cyrus!” Randolph interrupted firmly. “How was I to know a fire would start in your house, or any other house for that matter? It’s summer, and you know that we rarely have such fires in this time of the year!”
“So because you didn’t think there was any danger, I have lost all that was most precious to me,” the seriously injured attorney accused, his voice bitter with loss and grief.
“But it is not my fault that the fire started!” his friend protested.
“No, but if you had trained your men appropriately, my family might still be alive!” Cyrus raged.
“The fire brigade is new, Cyrus, and the men are working hard to be prepared for any circumstance. What more would you have me do?” Randolph pleaded, his voice rising. “If I had it within my power, I would gladly undo what happened, but that is one thing I cannot do! I’m truly sorry!”
“Your apologies will not restore my body, or the lives of my wife and son!” Cyrus declared, his weak, smoke-roughened voice filled with menace. “But I will have a reckoning, Randolph. Mark my words!”
Randolph Martin turned away sadly, distraught that he was unable to comfort his friend, and discounting the chilling words as the product of Cyrus’ inconsolable grief. Randolph could not know then just how deeply those few, softly-spoken syllables would affect his life one day...