New York Times bestsellers Sharyn McCrumb, Joyce Carol Oates, and Anne Perry each provided a brand-new, never-before-published tale for this unique collection of stories edited byNew York Times bestselling author and mystery legend Ed McBain. ""The Resurrection Man"" by Sharyn McCrumb: During America's first century, doctors used any means necessary to advance their craft--including dissecting corpses. Sharyn McCrumb brings the South of the 1850s to life in this story of a man who is assigned to dig up bodies to help those that are still alive. ""The Corn Maiden"" by Joyce Carol Oates: When a twelve-year-old girl is abducted in a small New York town, the crime starts a spiral of destruction and despair as only this master of psychological suspense could write it. ""Hostages"" by Anne Perry: The bestselling historical mystery author has written a tale of beautiful yet still savage Ireland today. In their eternal struggle for freedom, there is about to be a changing of the guard in the Irish Republican Army. Yet for some, old habits--and honor--still die hard, even at gunpoint. At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
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October 01, 2006
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Excerpt from Transgressions Vol. 4 by Sharyn McCrumb
Anne Perry is the bestselling author of two Victorian detective series that are practically mandatory reading for any aficionado of the historical mystery. Her Thomas Pitt series and the William and Hester Monk series, although both set in the same nineteenth-century London, take very different looks at English society. She is also writing another acclaimed historical series set during the French Revolution, and consisting of the books A Dish Taken Cold and The One Thing More. She has also started another series set during World War I, which launched with the acclaimed novel No Graves As Yet. Besides this, she has also written a fantasy duology, Tathea and Come Armageddon. But no matter what genre she writes in, her deft, detailed research, multifaceted characters, and twisting plots have garnered her fans around the world. In her spare time she lectures on writing in such places as the cruise ship the Queen Elizabeth II. Recent books include Angels in Gloom and Dark Assassin.
Bridget folded the last pair of trousers and put them into the case. She was looking forward to the holiday so much there was a little flutter of excitement in her stomach. It would not be the west coast she loved with its clean wind off the Atlantic and the great waves pounding in, because that would mean crossing the border into Eire, and they could not do that. But the north coast held its own beauty, and it would be away from Belfast, from Connor's responsibilities to the church, and most of all to the political party. There was always something he had to do, a quarrel to arbitrate, someone's bereavement to ease, a weakness to strengthen, a decision to make, and then argue and persuade.
It had been like that as long as she had known him, as it had been for his father. But then the Irish Troubles were over three hundred years old, in one form or another. The courage with which you fought for your beliefs defined who you were.
There was room for more in the suitcase. She looked around to see what else to put in just as Liam came to the door. He was sixteen, tall and lean like Connor, not yet filled out with muscle, and very conscious of it.
"Are you packed yet?" she asked.
"You don't need that much, Mum," he said dismissively. "We're only going for a week, and you can wash things, you know! Why are we going anyway? There's nothing to do!"
"That's exactly what I want to go for," she answered with a smile. "Your father needs to do nothing."
"He'll hate it!" Liam responded. "He'll be fretting all the time in case he's missing something, and when he comes home he'll only have to work twice as hard to put right whatever they've fouled up."
"Has it ever occurred to you," she said patiently, "that nothing will go wrong, and we'll have a good time? Don't you think perhaps it would be nice to be together, with no one else to think about, no one demanding anything, just for a few days?"
Liam rolled his eyes. "No," he said candidly. "It'll bore me out of my mind, and Dad too. He'll end up half the time on the phone anyway."
"There's no phone there," she told him. "It's a beach house."
"The mobile!" he said impatiently, his voice touched with contempt. "I'm going to see Michael."
"We're leaving in a couple of hours!" she called after him as he disappeared, and she heard his footsteps light and rapid along the passage, and then the back door slammed.
Connor came into the room. "What are you taking?" he asked, looking at the case. "What have you got all those trousers for? Haven't you packed any skirts? You can't wear those all the time."
She could, and she intended to. No one would see them. For once appearance would not matter. There would be no one there to criticize or consider it was not the right example for the wife of a minister and leader of the Protestant cause. Anyway, what she wore had nothing to do with the freedom of faith he had fought for since he was Liam's age, costing him the lightheartedness and the all too brief irresponsibility of his youth.
But was it worth arguing now, on the brink of this rare time together? It would sour it from the outset, make him feel thwarted, as if she were deliberately challenging him. It always did. And she wanted this week for them to have time away from anxiety and the constant pressure and threat that he faced every day at home, or in London.
Wordlessly she took the trousers out, all but one pair, and replaced them with skirts.
He did not say anything, but she saw the satisfaction in his face. He looked tired. There was a denser network of fine lines around his eyes and he was greyer at the temples than she had realized. A tiny muscle ticked intermittently in his jaw. Although he had complained about it, denied it, he needed this holiday even more than she did. He needed days without duty, without decisions, nights of sleep without interruption from the telephone, a chance to talk without weighing every word in case it were misjudged, or misquoted. She felt the little flutter of pleasure again, and smiled at him.
He did not notice. He left, closing the door behind him.
She was crushed, even as she knew it was stupid. He had far too much else on his mind to bother with emotional trivialities. He had every right to expect that she should take such things for granted. In the twenty-four years of their marriage he had never let her down. He never let anyone down! No matter what it cost, he always kept his word. The whole of Northern Ireland knew that, Catholic and Protestant. The promise of Connor O'Malley could be trusted, it was rock solid, as immutable as the promise of God--and as hard.
She heard the words in her mind with horror. How could she even think such a thing, let alone allow it to come into her head. He was engaged in a war of the spirit, there was no room for half measures, for yielding to the seduction of compromise. And he used the right words, she could feel her own temptation to water down the chastenings, in order to achieve a little peace, to yield on truth just for respite from the constant battle. She was heart and soul weary of it. She hungered for laughter, friendship, the ordinary things of daily life, without the pressure of outward righteousness and inner anger all the time.
And he would see that as weakness, even betrayal. Right cannot ever compromise with wrong. It is the price of leadership that there can be no self-indulgence. How often had he said that, and lived up to it?
She looked at the trousers she had taken out of the case. They were comfortable, and she could wear flat, easy shoes with them. This was supposed to be a holiday. She put two pairs of them back in again, at the bottom. She would do the unpacking anyway, and he would never know.
It was not difficult to pack for him: pyjamas, underwear, socks, plenty of shirts so he would always have a clean one, sweaters, lighter coloured casual trousers, toiletries. He would bring his own books and papers; that was an area she was not expected to touch.
Three middle-sized cases and Connor's briefcase would fit into the trunk of the car easily. The bodyguards, Billy and Ian, would come separately, following in another car, and they were not her responsibility. In fact she would try to imagine they were not there. They were necessary, of course, as they always were. Connor was a target for the I.R.A., although as far as she knew they had never physically attacked him. It would be a politically stupid thing to do; it would be the one thing that would unite all the disparate Protestant factions in one solid outrage.
And for the verbal attacks, he gave as good as he received, or better. He had the gift of words, the knowledge, and above all the passion so that his sermons, and his political speeches, almost interchangeable, erupted like lava to scorch those who were against his vision of Protestant survival and freedom. Sometimes it was directed just as fiercely at those on his own side who wavered, or in his view committed the greatest sin of all, betrayal. He despised a coward even more than he hated an open enemy.
The doorbell rang, and then, before anyone had had time to answer it, she heard the door open, and then Roisin's voice call out. "Hello, Mum! Where are you?"
"Bedroom!" Bridget answered. "Just finishing the packing. Like a cup of tea?"
"I'll make it," Roisin answered, arriving in the doorway. She was twenty-three, slim, with soft, brown hair like Bridget's, only darker, no honey fair streaks. She had been married just over a year and still had that glow of surprise and happiness about her. "You all ready?" she asked.
Bridget heard a slight edge to her voice, a tension she was trying to conceal. Please heaven it was not a difference with Eamonn. They were sufficiently in love it would all iron out, but Bridget did not want to go away for a week leaving Roisin emotionally raw. She was too vulnerable, and Eamonn was like Connor, passionate about his beliefs, committed to them, and expecting the same kind of commitment from those he loved, unaware of how little of himself he gave to his family, forgetting to put into word or touch what he expected them to know. "What is it?" she said aloud.
"I've got to speak to Dad," Roisin answered. "That's what I came for, really."
Bridget opened her eyes wide.
Roisin took a quick breath. "Sorry, Mum," she apologized. "I came to wish you a good holiday too. Heaven knows, you need it. But I could have done that over the phone."
Bridget looked at her more closely. She was a little flushed and her hands were stiff at her sides. "Are you alright?" she said with a pinch of anxiety. She almost asked her if she were pregnant, there was something about her which suggested it, but it would be intrusive. If it were so, Roisin would tell her when she was ready.
"Yes, of course I am!" Roisin said quickly. "Where's Dad?"
"Is it political?" It was a conclusion more than a question. She saw the shadow deepen in Roisin's eyes, and her right hand clench. "Couldn't it wait until we get back? Please!"
Roisin's face was indefinably tighter, more closed. "Eamonn asked me to come over," she answered. "Some things don't wait, Mum. I'll put the kettle on. He's not out, is he?"
"No ..." Before she could add anything else, Roisin twisted around and was gone. Bridget looked around, checking the room for the last time. She always forgot something, but it was usually a trivial thing she could do without. And it was not as if they were going abroad. The house on the shore was lonely, that was its greatest charm, but the nearest village was a couple of miles away, and they would have the car. Even though they took bread and potatoes and a few tins, they would still need to go for food every so often.
She went through to the kitchen and found Roisin making the tea, and Connor standing staring out of the window into the back garden. Bridget would like to have escaped the conflict, but she knew there was no point. She would hear what had been said sooner or later. If they agreed it would be a cause for celebration, and she would join in. If they didn't, it would be between them like a coldness in the house, a block of ice sitting in the kitchen to be walked around.
Roisin turned with the teapot in her hand. "Dad?"
He remained where he was, his back to the room.
She poured three cups. "Dad, Eamonn's been talking with some of the moderates about a new initiative in education ..." She stopped as she saw his shoulders stiffen. "At least listen to them!" Her voice was tight and urgent, a kind of desperation lifting it a pitch higher. "Don't refuse without hearing what it is!"
He swung around at last. His face was bleak, almost grey in the hard light. He sounded weary and bitter. "I've heard all I need to about Catholic schools and their methods, Rosie. Wasn't it the Jesuits who said 'Give me a child until he's seven, and I'll give you the man'? It's Popish superstition founded on fear. You'll never get rid of it out of the mind. It's a poison for life."
She swallowed. "They think the same about us!" she argued. "They aren't going to give in on teaching their children as they want, they can't afford to, or they won't carry their own people!"
"Neither am I," he replied, nothing in his face yielding, his jaw set, his blue eyes cold.
Bridget ached to interrupt, but she knew better. He found her ideas woolly and unrealistic, a recipe for evasion, an inch by inch surrender without the open honesty of battle. He had said so often enough. She had never stood her ground, never found the words or the courage to argue back. Somebody had to compromise or there would never be peace. She was tired of the cost of anger, not only the destruction of lives, the injury and the bereavement, but the loss of daily sanity, laughter and the chance to build with the hope of something lasting, the freedom from having to judge and condemn.
Roisin was still trying. "But Dad, if we gave a little on the things that don't matter, then we could stick on the things that do, and at least we would have started! We would look reasonable, maybe win over some of the middle parties."
"To what?" he asked.
"To join us, of course!" She spoke as if the answer were obvious.
"For how long?" There was challenge in his voice, and something close to anger.
She looked puzzled.
"Rosie, we're different parties because we have different principles," he said wearily. "The door has always been open for them to join us, if they will. I am not adulterating my beliefs to please the crowd or to win favours of anyone. I won't do it because it's wrong, but it's also foolish. As soon as they've got one concession, they'll want another, and another, until there's nothing left of what we've fought for, and died for all these years. Each time we give in, it'll be harder to stand the next time, until we've lost all credibility, and our own can't trust us any more. You're one or another. There's no half way. If Eamonn doesn't know that now, he'll learn it bitterly."
She would not retreat. She was beaten on logic, but not on will. "But Dad, if no one ever moves on anything, we'll go on fighting each other forever. My children will live and die for exactly the same things your parents did, and we're doing now! We've got to live together someday. Why not now?"
Connor's face softened. He had more patience with her than he did with Bridget. He picked up his cup in both hands, as if he were cold and warming himself on it. "Rosie, I can't afford to," he said quietly. "I've made promises I have to keep. If I don't, I have no right to ask for their trust. It's my job to bind them together, give them courage and hope, but I can only lead where they are willing to follow. Too far in front, and I'll lose them. Then I'll have accomplished nothing. They'll feel betrayed and choose a new leader, more extreme, and less likely to yield to anything than I am."
"But Dad, we've got to yield over something!" she persisted, her voice strained, her body awkward as she leaned across the table. "If you can't in education, then what about industry, or taxes, or censorship? There's got to be somewhere we can meet, or everything's just pointless, and we're all playing a charade that's going to go on and on forever, all our lives! All of us caught in a madman's parade, as if we hadn't the brains or the guts to see it and get out. It isn't even honest! We pretend we want peace, but we don't! We just want our own way!"
Bridget heard the hysteria in her voice, and at that moment she was sure Roisin was pregnant. She had a desperation to protect the future that was primal, higher and deeper than reason. Perhaps it was the one real hope? She stepped forward, intervening in her own instinct to shield.
"They're just people with a different faith and political aim," she said to Connor. "There must be a point where we can meet. They've moderated a lot in the last twenty years. They don't insist on Papal censorship of books any more ..."
Connor looked at her in amazement, his eyebrows rising sharply. "Oh! And you call that moderation, do you? We should be grateful to be allowed to choose for ourselves what we can read, which works of philosophy and literature we can buy and which we can't, instead of being dictated to by the Pope of Rome?"
"Oh, come on, Dad!" Roisin waved her hand sharply. "It's not like it used to be ..."
"We are not living under Roman Catholic laws, Roisin, not on marriage and divorce, not on birth control or abortion, not on what we can and cannot think!" His voice was grating hard, and he too leaned forward as if some physical force impelled him. "We are part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and that is the guarantee of our freedom to have laws that are the will of the people, not of the Roman Catholic Church. And I will die before I will give away one single right to that." His fist was clenched on the table top. "I don't move from here!"
Roisin looked pale and tired, her eyes stunned with defeat. When she spoke it was quietly. "Dad, not everyone in the party is behind you, you know. There are many who want at least to listen to the other side and make a show of being reasonable, even if at the end we don't change anything that matters." She half reached towards him, hesitated, then her hand fell away. "It's dangerous to appear as if we won't move at all." She was not looking at him, as if she dared not, in case she did not complete what she felt compelled to say. "People get impatient. We're tired of killing and dying, of seeing it going on and on without getting any better. If we're ever to heal it, we've got to begin somewhere."
There was sadness in Connor's face, Bridget could see it and pity wrenched inside her, because she knew what he was going to say. Maybe once there had been a choice, but it had gone long ago.
"We don't begin by surrendering our sovereignty, Roisin," he said. "I've tried all my life to deal with them. If we give an inch they'll take the next, and the next, until we have nothing left. They don't want accommodation, they want victory." He let his breath out in a sigh. "Sometimes I'm not even sure they want peace. Who do they hate, if not us? And who can they blame every time something goes wrong? No." He shook his head. "This is where we stand. Don't try to push me again, and tell Eamonn to do his own errands, not send you." He reached across as if to touch her hair, but she backed away, and Bridget saw the tears in her eyes.
"I'm frightened for you," Roisin said softly.
He straightened up, away from her. Her movement had hurt, and that surprised him.
"If you stand for your beliefs, there'll always be people who fight you," he answered, his lips tight, his eyes bitter. "Some of them violently."
Bridget knew he was thinking of the bombing nearly ten years ago in which his mentor had lost both his legs, and his four grandchildren with him had been killed. Something in Connor had changed then, the pain of it had withered compassion in him.
"Would you rather I were a coward?" he demanded, looking at Roisin. "There are different kinds of deaths," he went on. "I'll face mine forwards, trusting in God that He will protect me as long as I am in His service." Emotion twisted his face, startlingly naked for an instant. "Do you admire a man who bends with the wind because it might cost him to stand straight, Rosie? Is that what I've taught you?"
She shook her head, the tears spilling over. She leaned forward very quickly and brushed his cheek with her lips, but was gone past him before he could reach out his arm to hold her, and respond. She looked at Bridget for an instant, trying to smile. Her voice trembled too much to say more than a word of good-bye, and she hurried out. They heard her feet down the hall, and the front door slammed.
"It's Eamonn," Connor said grimly, avoiding meeting her eyes.
"I know," she agreed. She wanted to excuse Roisin and make him understand the fear she felt, the fierce driving need to protect the child Bridget was more than ever sure she was carrying. And she wanted to ease the hurt in Connor because he was being questioned and doubted by the daughter he loved, even if she had no idea how much, and he did not know how to tell her, or why she needed to know.
"He wants to impress her," she tried to explain. "You're the leader of Protestantism in Ireland, and he's in love with your daughter. He needs her to see him as another strong man, like you, a leader not a follower. He admires you intensely, but he can't afford to stand in your shadow--not with her."
Connor blinked and rubbed his hand wearily across his face, but at last he looked at her, surprise and a fleeting gratitude in his eyes.
Bridget smiled. "It's happened as long as young men have courted great men's daughters, and I expect it always will. It's hard to fall in love with a man who's in your own father's mould, just younger and weaker. He has to succeed for himself. Can't you see that?" She had felt that about Connor twenty-five years ago. She had seen the strength inside him, the fire to succeed. His unbreakable will had been the most exciting thing she could imagine. She had dreamed of working beside him, of sharing defeat and victory, proud just to be part of what he did. She could understand Roisin so well it was as if it were herself all over again.