Excerpt from Book 2: No Pity for the Dead...
San Francisco, June 1867
I’m in for it for sure. Dan and his buried treasure. Dang it all.
Owen Cassidy glanced over at Dan, the lantern dancing the man’s shadow over the cellar wall. He didn’t know how long they’d been digging, but they were both down to their sweat-soaked shirtsleeves, and Dan had been cursing under his breath for at least the past quarter hour.
Dan Matthews swore again as another hole revealed only sand and rocks and bits of broken construction rubble that had been used to level the building lot. “Anything there yet, Cassidy?”
“Nope,” Owen said.
Soon. Dan would give up soon, and they could stop and pretend they’d never been looking for gold. It had to be soon. Owen was tired of breathing in the dust they’d stirred up, most of it from the coal heaped in the corner, and his left palm had an ugly blister that was sure to burst. Plus, he was scared Mr. Martin would discover that two of the workers he’d hired to refurbish his offices had been down in the cellar poking around. They’d lose their jobs for sure.
Worse still, if Mrs. Davies found out what he was doing, she’d scold the skin plumb off him. And Owen never wanted her mad at him. She was the closest thing to a parent that he had, since his real ones had gone and vanished.
“You sure Mr. Martin would bury gold down here?” Owen asked. “I mean, beneath his offices and all?”
“Where better? His house where some nosy maid might find it?” Dan replied. “Who’d ever come looking down here? And why do you think he’s in an all-fired hurry to have this cellar bricked over when it’s been fine as it is for so long, huh? ’Cuz he wants his money covered over for safekeeping and none the wiser, that’s why.”
Dan sealed his commentary with a nod. It did make sense. Sorta.
And then it happened. If only Owen hadn’t shifted to his right and begun a new hole.
The sound his shovel made was suddenly very different from the clang of metal on stone. “Dan?”
Dan almost fell in his haste to reach Owen’s side. “You’ve found it!” he crowed. “It’s old Jasper Martin’s bag of gold!”
He dropped to his hands and knees and started clawing at the ground, forgetting about his own shovel in his haste to reach the wealth he was certain they’d found.
“What the . . .” Dan drew back, his face going as white as a lady’s fine handkerchief. “Shit!” he shouted, jumping to his feet. “Why won’t he leave me be?”
“Who, Dan? What?” Owen asked, trying to get a look past the man’s broad shoulders. He couldn’t believe what he saw peeking around the peeled-back edge of a length of oilcloth.
Owen felt his stomach churn, and he clapped a hand to his mouth. Because what he saw sure did look like part of a blackened, rotting arm.
Excerpt from Book 1: No Comfort for the Lost...
San Francisco, March 1867
The Chinese believed that some days were inauspicious, the ill tidings written in the passage of the heavenly bodies. Celia Davies gazed down at her patient, a delicate Chinese girl whose skin sported more bruises than unblemished flesh, and wondered if today would prove to be one of those days.
“You heal.” The old woman who’d been watching from the doorway flapped wrinkled hands, causing the lengthy twist of her silver-tinged ebony hair to swing across her chest. “You heal!”
“Yes, yes,” Celia answered. “That is why I am here.”
A bead of perspiration trickled down her spine. It was stifling and gloomy in this airless room no larger than a closet, devoid of any furnishings beyond a washstand, a rickety bamboo stool and the miserable cot the girl lay upon.
A room as tight and dark as a coffin.
“I have come to help you,” Celia said to the girl, though she likely could not hear or understand. There was a purple bruise along her collarbone, just above the neckband of her blue cotton sacque, several more along her chin and cheekbone. One skinny arm was wrapped in filthy, blood-stained bandages. The girl’s face was sticky with dried sweat, and she whimpered drowsily. Undoubtedly, she had been dosed with opium for the pain. Celia rested a hand upon the girl’s forehead. Hot but not dangerously so. Not yet.
“She may have inflammation from her wounds. It is bad. Chuung,” she said to the old woman waiting by the open door with its lattice-barred window.
The brothel owner’s hands had returned to the wide sleeves of her high-necked silk tunic, and her features creased with a frown. How much, Celia wondered, did this girl owe her in exchange for passage from China? Two hundred dollars? Three? Her freedom signed away in a contract she probably had not been able to read, and might never escape. If this girl died, the brothel owner would never recover the full extent of the debt.
Celia settled onto the bamboo stool and undid the latch on the black leather portmanteau she used as a medical bag. More droplets of sweat collected beneath her collar, in the pits of her arms, and along her ribs where her corset hugged. She longed for a breath of air.
“When did this happen?” she asked, feeling for a pulse in the girl’s wrist. Weak and fast. Not unexpected. “How many days? Yat.”
“Sin leung saam yat.”
Did she mean three entire days? Celia wished Barbara were here to talk to the woman. But her half-Chinese cousin had not been home when Celia had been summoned, and she had rushed to the stews in China Alley with only her portmanteau as company.
“You should have sent for me before now,” she said.
The Chinese woman’s expression, stoic and implacable, hardened. “You heal or you go.”
“I do not intend to let her die.”