The technology of this time is remarkable, but I haven’t the space here to tell you of it. A librarian at the city’s public library helped me search for more information on something called—the InterWeb, maybe? No, InterNet. In any case, it was easy enough to continue on my own, and I felt I owed it to you to chase this down the rabbit hole. The earliest record I could find of them was a police report on October 5, 1998, stating that a young woman, a Rose Spencer, along with her three-month-old, had been picked up for theft in some sort of department store. In it, Rose said she was new to the city and was hoping to contact a friend.
I hope I haven’t upset you, brother. I know you’ve built yourself a life, and you’ve Amelia and Julian to content yourself with. But I also hope that this helps you put it all to rest, and eases your bedeviled mind. Both Rosie and her daughter seem well enough, and despite the pain she’s caused this family, I felt content to see them settled.
“Virgil was my other son, gone shortly after this letter was sent,” Cyrus explained, snatching it back out of her numb fingers. “Augustus a year later, when his ship sank in the seventeenth century.”
Nicholas swung his gaze back to the old man, an edge to his voice. “Enough of this. Tell her straight what you need of her.”
Cyrus leaned back, giving him a long look. “I could not use Rose, therefore my task falls upon Miss Linden—”
“Spencer,” she corrected sharply.
“Linden,” he practically roared, “and damn you for it. I need you to steal back what was stolen from me by your mother.”
That put a stop to the scalding words she was about to fling onto him. “Excuse me?”
“Don’t play deaf, I haven’t the patience for it. I meant precisely what I said earlier. If you continue to be uncooperative, I’ll resume the search for it myself, and you’ll be left here. I’m sure you saw the women as you came off the ferry, the ones who linger by the docks?”
Nicholas growled, “You dare imply—”
“I imply nothing. I mean precisely what I say. That will be your own recourse for survival. What, without any skills or knowledge or protector in this time, will you do otherwise?”
So, her choices were to prostitute herself to others, or to serve him? “I know where the passage is.” Roughly. “All I need is to get back to Nassau—”
“I would bury the passage before I’d ever let you through it again, child, so think twice before you spite me. Let’s play a game, shall we? Close your eyes and try to envision a scenario in which you could possibly get to the island before my men. What funds would you use? What friends do you have here who would help you?” Cyrus asked, his voice light, like he was speaking to a child. “And what would prevent us from coming to claim you again?”
Nicholas would help me. Etta risked a glance over to him, feeling the air vibrate around the two of them with unspoken fury.
“What would prevent us from killing your mother?”
She sat back on her heels, defeat rising up in her like a wave of nausea. When she spoke, her words were sharp enough to draw Nicholas a step closer to her side. Etta wondered if he was worried he’d need to grab her again to keep her from clawing the old man’s face. “You already have one life on your hands. Are you really so evil that you’d kill another woman?”
“Another woman?” he asked, brows rising. “My agents didn’t report a casualty, though they were authorized to…shall we say, use force and their best judgment.”
Fury blazed in her. “She was innocent. She was a defenseless, elderly woman!”
Cyrus shrugged one shoulder. “Then she was already at the end of her life. Don’t waste tears on this woman. Most don’t get such a full life. My son, for instance. My grandson. I’m far more concerned with the blood your mother has on her hands. By our old traveler laws, I’d be more than justified in killing you to end this feud. Be grateful I’ve chosen the high road.”
Etta was so stunned, so tackled by disbelief, her next words flew out of her mind. Clearly seeing this, Cyrus continued as if she hadn’t spoken at all.
“After the passage was discovered, I sent numerous agents to your filthy, crowded city to conduct their investigations. When it became clear Rose had borne a child, and one that might possibly be gifted, arrangements were made to put you directly in a position to travel,” Ironwood continued, lacing his fingers together over his chest. “My agents bestowed a rather sizable donation on my behalf to the museum that employs your mother. They suggested that the museum might invite you to perform—of course, anything is possible when money is being passed beneath the table.”
She felt her lip curl into a snarl, but she forced herself to stay silent, too afraid of crossing that line between cooperative and uncooperative.
“It occurred to me that perhaps your mother didn’t realize the passage was there—that she hadn’t heard it. Or perhaps you didn’t carry the ability. And so Sophia was sent, to see if you could hear the passage, and if so, bring you through it.”
Hear. He knew she’d heard something. But Etta had been inside the museum any number of times, and that night was the first time she’d ever heard that booming call.
“How very thoughtless of Rose to not explain this.” Cyrus seemed to read her thoughts before she did. “Our ancestors, those who created the passages a thousand years ago, were of purer blood than those of us today. It became necessary to…mingle…our bloodlines with common ones in order to survive. The ability to hear and see the passages naturally has faded. We rely on resonance.”