Readers, the nature of this blog is to improve my drafts of my books and stories, and after a time of rest return to the project with fresh objectivity, to shape the manuscript for publishing. I find it helpful to see chapters formatted and posted…something about reading the work in different sizes and shapes helps clarify what changes are needed. I’ve recently published my Are You stories and novellas, and now it’s time to work over Sequence of Events. Below, are the table of contents and the opening passage. When I have the book available for sale, I’ll make the announcement!
1928. The American economy appears to be booming. The world itself, following a devastating war, seems ripe with promise…and for the opportunistic, easy pickings. Albeit, there has been steady talk of war, the Great One having left Europe impoverished, with none of her resentments resolved. Behind the scenes, a stockpiling scheme disguised as charity waxes. A man in love, who can’t accept himself victim of blackmailers, has staked his life on one chance. Two couples linked by an inconvenient marriage sort themselves more happily; the ignored aggrieved feel ready for vengeance…and an expert in human behavior (manipulating of) is called upon to catch a crooked officeholder.
Table of Contents
1 A Personal Choice
He had taken everything.
12 Mud in Your Eye
Luberta Bragg was going out as a woman.
24 “You’ll Be Happy to Know This, Sir”
“Freda has gone off gadding.”
“It’s not a question of damned if you do or don’t…”
50 Rite of Spring
Talou had not, after all, tracked his prey…
60 How Is a Windmill Like a Waypost
Bruner walked alongside his father.
78 “Alas, Dear Falada, There Thou Hangest”
The mission house had been founded to shelter war orphans.
91 The Watcher Watched
Nora Huey had gone with Boxer.
106 The Heron’s Foot
“You have no money.”
136 Moving On
Phillip found himself catching up to Stanley.
161 Give a Dog a Bad Name and Hang Him
Not too many people liked hounding an orphanage.
198 Drawn Upon Imagination
As a man abandoned by his wife…
Even the walks had been only a nudge.
A Personal Choice
I loved to choose and see my path; but now―
from the hymn “Lead Kindly Light”
He had taken everything. He had grown sufficiently ruthless that he’d taken other people’s stories as well, stories they had confided to him, in what amounted to a covenant between a child of his parish, himself…and the ever-present Auditor. The ease with which he’d surrendered to this expedient, when telling lies had become necessary, of rifling this treasure-house of private affairs, proved to Stanley Carpenter the depths of his degradation.
“Carpenter,” he told the porter, who had collected his trunk, his suitcase, and his handbag. “I am only Mr. Carpenter.” The form of address was proper, in any case. Stanley wallowed a bit. He felt that God could not revere him, and might, if he permitted anyone else to do so, trip him on the rails.
“Larry,” the porter said. He touched the brim of his cap, adding, “But I understand, some people over here get to be too friendly. No, sir, you let me do that.” He waved away Stanley’s preparatory crouch, from which he’d meant to assist upending the trolley.
“I see your bags aren’t labeled,” Larry told him. “Do you need help, Mr. Carpenter, finding a hotel? I got a card here…”
“I am visiting my niece. I have written to my niece. And she expects me.”
Larry smiled. The smile began uncertainly, but shrugging one shoulder, he said: “Nice when folks visit folks. You come a long way, Mr. Carpenter. Do you need a taxicab?”
“I would consider it helpful, if you would point me to a taxi. Larry…”
He held Larry in suspense, while with a bag of Stanley’s tucked under each arm and a hand gripping the trolley, Larry waited. The smile faded, and Larry shifted on his feet.
Stanley needed methodical proceedings to keep his nerves quiet. He needed to unfasten his topcoat, one cautious button at a time―or the buttons would twist askew against gloved fingers, and he would struggle, in public, over a simple task. He knew this. He had seen in minor things, as though a guardian angel with a dubious agenda lifted him out of himself, those evidences of slipping that others saw. But they did not see yet that his interior landscape had done more…
It had dislodged, and slumped, and knocked away the foundation.
At length, he produced his pocketbook. The first item was the photograph. He had torn Phillip away from this, on the grounds of not knowing him, and because Phillip and Freda, side by side, would not fit. Of course Stanley, to know her, did not know Freda either. But one hardly could choose…or rather, one’s American relations were it for choice; and of those to whom he might go begging, he had Freda. He must pretend that the doorstep of this girl―who was, at any rate, the daughter of the man his sister had married―would be one at which he might legitimately appear.
Stanley, had Larry known it, had his earthly fortune from which to select his tip. He had withdrawn his savings at the Post Office. He had converted £2436 to travelers’ cheques, later most of these to American currency. Alien economics had thrown Stanley out of kilter; he felt alive to the vertiginous consequences. Touching his money caused agitated visions of sticking paper and dropped notes. He removed his right glove and tucked it, like a parlormaid with her dusting cloth, into his right flap-pocket. He extracted, slowly, rubbing the bill between his fingers, one dollar.
“Larry,” he completed his thought, “I would like for you to have this.”
This figment, this imaginary Mrs. Chamberlain, had, with her dirty dealings, left Freda at a disadvantage. She had got back and been arrested, the thought of Phillip causing her hand on the key to lock in place. She found herself turning it in a stealthy, silent way―because he might be there, waiting for her…
She had no idea what Phillip’s telegram had meant.
The bungalow proved dark, and empty as it soon would be, when for nonpayment of rent she had been put on the street. Which was overly dramatic. She would ask her stepmother’s help, no doubt, grown hardened to it. For Dolores had known it must come to this.
And after returning to Haworth, Freda would find herself a woman nearing thirty, on the lookout for a means of running from home. Into Colney Hatch, if need be. She had run before, but at six years younger. And in less embarrassed circumstances, while having still some bargaining power. She could foresee a spiraling descent. She dropped her purse and walked into the kitchen to pick up the newspaper, lying where she’d left it on the breakfast table.
She noticed now, reading more carefully through the “Wanted” listings, that many of these offices were located at the same address. Many offered as a telephone number the identical three-digit exchange. Mrs. Chamberlain, whose name had sounded so respectable, and whose advertisement had billed her as a seeker of maids clean and prompt, was an employment agency’s front woman.
At the office block where High and 4th Streets intersected, Freda had climbed four demi-flights of stairs to knock at number 208B; there to discover an anteroom, with sofa, standing ashtray, and two armchairs. The room smelled different to a city bus, in that it had the building’s emanations of dry rot and mildew admixed with those layers gained from churning human traffic—of naphthalene, tobacco, sweat, scent, and stinking feet. Certainly it was an aromatic room, made more so by the fact that everyone in it was wet, and every seat was taken.