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“Until he killed her,” Tyler suggested from the doorway. “That doesn’t bode well for an affair. Remind me of the exact date Philly was occupied,” he said as he walked into the pantry to pour himself coffee.

“September 26, 1777,” she answered. “There’d been a lot of jockeying between George Washington and Howe, but Howe got around Washington after a few skirmishes. Usually, in war, when a capital city is taken, the war is over—but the British didn’t count on the patriots continuing to fight. The British general Cornwallis surrendered on October 19, 1781, at Yorktown. There were skirmishes after that, but it was the last major battle, although the Treaty of Paris wasn’t signed until September 3, 1783, officially ending the war.”

Tyler and Logan looked at each other, grinning.

“Hey, I teach this stuff,” Allison said. “In fact, I do a course on the history of American government, comparing the Revolutionary era to our modern politics. Not that much has really changed since those early days. They all had different opinions back then, too. Not everyone worshipped the ground Washington walked on. He had his critics.”

“Okay, but the British got here on September 26, 1777,” Tyler said. “And when did they leave?”

“On June 18, 1778. That’s when they evacuated Philadelphia.”

“And Lucy Tarleton died on what date?” Logan asked.

“It’s believed she was killed just before the British evacuated. According to the stories we have, Beast Bradley murdered her in the grand salon hours before leaving the city. Angus was apparently found cradling his daughter’s body by Tobias Dandridge, the man who would later marry Sophia—and the artist who painted the likeness of Bradley in the study.”

Logan and Tyler looked at each other again.

“What?” Allison asked.

“September to June. Nine months—give or take a few weeks,” Tyler said.

“Are you saying—”

“Suppose history has it wrong,” he went on. “What if Beast Bradley moved in and Lucy fell for him right away? Or, even if she wasn’t in love with him, what if she was willing to use him for information, as you said? And willing to sleep with him to keep her family safe? According to all the stories, she played at being attracted to him. So, what if she had a child with him—and she was killed because of that child?”

Allison groaned. “And one of my ancestors was that child? I don’t know—they would’ve had to begin their affair immediately. And the child had to have been born just before she died. And if she was killed, why would someone let the child live?”

“I imagine it’s easier to kill a woman who’s angered or betrayed you than a helpless infant,” Logan said. “The murder might have been because he was furious, a crime of passion. If Beast Bradley killed her.”

Allison was thoughtful. “Okay, wait,” she said after a moment. “You think maybe Lucy did care about Beast Bradley, and that she had an affair with him—and a child. So someone else killed her. Who? Angus? Because his daughter had, in his view, betrayed him and her country? And, of course, the baby was innocent, so he asked the Leigh who would’ve been my ancestor to take the baby in?”

“It’s possible,” Tyler said. “And I think it’s a theory we can investigate when we go to Valley Forge. I want to hear what Martin Standish has to say.”

“Allison, did he come to his theories and conclusions because of letters in his possession?” Logan asked.

“Yes. But it’s difficult to prove those theories because the letters might not be signed. Or they’re signed with initials or just a term of endearment. This would be for the protection of both the writer and the recipient.” Allison paused. “The war was a hard, sad time for many. Some letters were written by soldiers and sent out. Others were written by friends and relatives and smuggled in to them.”

“Valley Forge is only twenty miles northwest of Philly,” Tyler said. “But our appointment with Standish is at two this afternoon. Since we don’t know what we’ll find out or how long it might take, I suggest we plan on staying overnight if need be.”

“I wouldn’t mind being out of the city for a night,” Allison murmured.

“You feel you need to get out of this house for a while?” he asked her.

“Yes, but I also have a feeling there’s something in Valley Forge we need to know. Maybe you’re right and we have the history all wrong,” Allison said. “We’ll have to do some cajoling to get Martin to really help us. He was pretty angry about that phone call of Cherry’s.”

“And who more than Cherry would receive a comedown if it was proven that Allison is a descendent—not just of the house, but of Lucy Tarleton,” Logan remarked. “What’s your feeling about Cherry?” he asked Tyler.

“I agree that she stands to lose the most,” he said. “But I don’t know….”

“Martin Standish is passionate—and possessive!—in regard to his letters,” Allison told them. “He admits there’s no way to prove who wrote them, but according to the article, he believes they belonged to ‘heroes and heroines who dared not write their names.’”

“How did he get hold of these letters?” Tyler asked.

Allison shrugged. “He hasn’t said. It can be big business, you know. There are many letters from all periods of history in private hands. Sometimes people don’t even realize they own them. They find them when they’re cleaning out an attic or a basement. Anytime you go to a reenactment, you’ll generally see collectors buying and selling historical items and letters. There’s nothing illegal about owning them. Sometimes, what happens is that children inherit collections or letters, guns, even articles of clothing—and they don’t have a real appreciation for those objects.” She gave another shrug. “So they might have them appraised and sell them. That’s how some of them came on to the market. In Martin Standish’s case, he’s a true lover of the era, and his collection is precious to him.”

“You think he’s just going to let us rummage through everything?” Tyler asked her.

She smiled. “Not rummage. I think, if I approach him in the right way, he’ll let us study his documents. You do realize they won’t be in a stack on his desk. He’ll have done everything necessary to preserve them.”

Tyler clapped his hands. “Road trip. Let’s get started.” He turned to Logan. “We keep coming back to that painting of Beast Bradley in the study. With the overlays Jane’s done, we probably have a truer image of the man. But that doesn’t help with what we’ve heard about the painting—from Julian, from the Dixon family, from Ethan.”

“I’ll get Sean on it again,” Logan promised.

* * *

They took their time driving to Valley Forge.

Tyler enjoyed the trip. Being with Allison was like being with a personal guide; she pointed out landmarks along the way and memorials to events that had taken place. The patriots hadn’t just abandoned Philadelphia. The British had won the Battle of Brandywine. There’d been a rain-out, basically a draw, at the Battle of the Clouds.

They stopped at the site of the Paoli Massacre and spent an hour walking around the pristine grounds where the British had routed Anthony Wayne’s troops on September 20, 1777.

Looking out over the beautiful countryside, just touched by the gentle breeze of the late-summer day, Tyler found himself seeing the era that had given them their country through Allison’s eyes.

“You told me once that courage wasn’t about not being afraid,” she said. “I still marvel when I think about the fight these men waged. Every man who put his name on the Declaration of Independence knew that doing so made him a traitor, and if the war was lost and he was captured, he could be executed. They had to be afraid. Only an idiot wouldn’t be. The British had the most powerful fighting forces in the world at the time, and those men—Washington, Jefferson, all the others—still signed that piece of paper. Washington’s army faced near-starvation, a lack of supplies, lack of clothing…and, of course, some did desert. But whenever I think about it, I’m in awe that we have a country. They were routed again and again, but they prevailed in the end.” She smiled mischievously. “And there were a few victories in there! The Americans did win against the British general Burgoyne during the Battle of Saratoga. And once Lafayette arrived and Pulaski helped whip our men into fighting shape, the army was in much better condition.”

He slipped his arms around her, pulling her close. “You make me see the world in a whole new light,” he whispered.

She leaned against him. The sun was shining down on her hair, which made it look as dark and glossy as a raven’s wing. He had to remind himself that they weren’t on a date—or sightseeing.

“So, there’s action all around Philly, even after the British occupy the city,” he said pensively. “When they do, our Lucy, who’s friends with a number of fighting men, immediately begins her flirtation with Lord Brian Bradley. Whenever she gains information, she rides out. Sadly, I guess neither she nor any other patriot spy reached this particular battlefield in time. Sounds like it was a horrible massacre.”

“The Americans repulsed the British at Whitemarsh,” Allison said. “Lucy might have been able to get information to someone about that.”

“Washington retired with his forces to Valley Forge in December, right?” Tyler asked.

“December 19,” Allison replied. “We should move on. You can see some of the landscape around there before we meet up with Martin Standish. The old stone farmhouses that were used as headquarters still exist and they’ve built replicas of the wooden huts the soldiers used to survive the winter. You’ve never been there? On a school trip or a family vacation, maybe?”

He shook his head. “No. But I can tell you the story of the Alamo with every detail and every argument about the deaths of our Texas heroes.”