Time quake, p.1
TIME QUAKE, p.1Linda Buckley-Archer
Also by Linda Buckley-Archer
GIDEON THE CUTPURSE
THE TAR MAN
being Book III of
The Enlightenment of Peter Schock
The quotation: ‘Plus je connais les hommes, plus j’aime mon chien’ is taken from Textes de
scène by Pierre Desproges, published by Editions du Seuil, France.
First published in Great Britain in 2009 by Simon and Schuster UK Ltd
A CBS COMPANY.
Copyright © 2009 Linda Buckley-Archer
This book is copyright under the Berne Convention.
No reproduction without permission.
All rights reserved.
The right of Linda Buckley-Archer to be identified as the author
of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with sections 77
and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
Simon & Schuster UK Ltd
1st Floor, 222 Gray’s Inn Road
London WC1X 8HB
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and
incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are
used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual people living
or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
A CIP catalogue record for this book
is available from the British Library.
HB ISBN: 978-1-41691-712-0
eBook ISBN: 978-1-84738-896-4
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Printed in the UK by CPI Mackays, Chatham ME5 8TD
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TO THE READER
In which Lord Luxon takes a fancy to New York
A SPENT ROSE
In which the party struggles to know what to do about
Kate’s affliction and Gideon brings some promising news
A WOLF IN SHEEP’S CLOTHING
In which the redcoats take to spitting at Orcs and
Lord Luxon contrives to meet a talented young American
ST BARTHOLOMEW’S FAIR
In which Gideon is horrified to learn of
Lord Luxon’s deception and the party
pays a visit to St Bartholomew’s Fair
In which Lord Luxon gets an answer to his
question and Alice encounters a dog with bottom
In which it is the Tar Man’s turn to bare his teeth
and Kate proves her worth
ANJALI DOES THE RIGHT THING
In which Anjali has cause to be grateful
and a small domestic pet does its duty
RING! RING! RING!
In which Peter says sorry to Kate and
Bartholomew’s Fair hosts a family quarrel
THE SPLINTERING OF TIME
In which Anjali makes a decision, Sam wonders
if Kate is lost to him and the Marquis de
Montfaron watches ghosts on the internet
A CURIOUS DUET
In which Peter vows to do his best for his friends,
and the party makes the acquaintance of a singing dog
THESE ARE THE TIMES THAT TRY MEN’S SOULS
In which Lord Luxon encounters
George Washington and marvels
at the power of the written word
BROTHERS IN BLOOD
In which the Tar Man confronts Gideon
with a truth he is reluctant to accept
and Gideon recalls an early memory
IN THE WAKE OF THE TAR MAN
In which Peter, Parson Ledbury, the old gentleman
and his dog tackle the Tar Man, Hannah nurses
Sir Richard, and Kate tries to understand the corridor of Time
A BONFIRE IN DERBYSHIRE
In which the Marquis de Montfaron
comforts Sam and the farmhouse
receives some unexpected visitors
THE LAW OF TEMPORAL OSMOSIS
In which Kate makes a scientific
discovery and keeps company with
the Tar Man on his boat
ON THE STEPS OF NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
In which Lord Luxon poses some
questions, Alice draws some
conclusions and Tom proves to be invaluable
GHOSTS ON THE WATERFRONT
In which Kate witnesses a shocking apparition,
has an important conversation
and discovers an interesting property of water
In which many centuries collide, two brothers
make a pact and Kate tells Peter her secret
AN APPOINTMENT IN MANHATTAN
In which the Marquis de Montfaron acquires
a taste for flying and Alice makes a
guilty confession to Inspector Wheeler
A MOVING TARGET
In which the Marquis de Montfaron tries to make
Lord Luxon see reason and the Metropolitan
Museum of Art witnesses a death
THE TIPPING POINT
In which George Washington prepares to cross the Delaware
on Christmas night and encounters an unexpected enemy
In which Peter finally learns of the problems that
have beset his friend, and the consequences
of time travel become impossible to ignore
In which the two brothers cooperate, Gideon
resumes his career as a cutpurse and
Tempest House plays host to some unexpected visitors
THAT BOTHERSOME LITTLE COLONY
In which Lord Luxon discovers that you
should be careful what you wish for
THE LUXON WALL
In which Kate demonstrates to Lord Luxon
the consequences of travelling at the speed of light
A PERFECT DAY
In which all is lost for Kate
MR CARMICHAEL’S HOMEWORK
In which the Tar Man lends some welcome support
and Peter is reminded of the usefulness of homework
In which Peter takes an important telephone call
TO THE READER
The world turns on such seemingly trivial incidents. An argument between a father and son led to a boy travelling up to a Derbyshire farmhouse for the weekend with a girl he did not know. An encounter between the girl’s Golden Labrador and a Van der Graaf generator caused the dog to panic and run amok through her father’s research laboratory. The frantic chase which ensued led, in turn, to the boy and girl h
The children’s accidental discovery of time travel – proof, if ever it was needed, of the relationship between gravity and time – had many serious consequences. One of which, as you will see, was to put the future of one of the world’s great nations in jeopardy. It is curious that the fate of so very many could depend on the actions of a single man, yet there are occasions when it takes only one hand to steer the great engine of history – and many more to put it on its right course.
So this, then, is the final volume of the story of Peter Schock and Kate Dyer, two twenty-first century children, whom fate plucked from their everyday lives and dropped into the year 1763. Peter and Kate were swept up in events which no child should have to confront and which ultimately threatened everyone. Yet no adult could have shown greater courage.
The fortunes and actions of two men, seemingly irreconcilable one to the other, are also at the heart of this tale. Gideon Seymour, a reformed thief and an honourable man, came to the children’s aid at no small risk to himself. The Tar Man, Gideon’s nemesis and, as it subsequently transpired, his elder brother, was a feared and talented villain, who succeeded in establishing his vicious reputation not only in his own century but also in ours.
I have already described how the Tar Man made off with Peter, Kate and the last two anti-gravity machines in existence, and returned to 1763. One of the devices proved to be useless to him, for he had no knowledge of the code needed to make it function, but with the other, he hoped to undo the injustice that had blighted him all his life. In so doing, however, the Tar Man made a rare but calamitous error of judgement: he trusted his master, Lord Luxon, to help him. However, Lord Luxon had plans of his own for this machine that could travel through time, and he stole it, leaving the Tar Man stranded alongside Peter and Kate in 1763.
Lord Luxon’s mind was as keen as his soul was unfulfilled. Alas for the Tar Man, he underestimated how much even bad men need to atone for their failures in life; nor did he grasp, until it was too late, the scale of Lord Luxon’s ambition.
Since that first time event in a Derbyshire laboratory, the cost of interfering with the universe’s fragile time mantle has become abundantly clear. The formation of parallel worlds, the first time quakes and Kate’s accelerated fading, were all symptoms of a fatal disease. Perhaps if Lord Luxon had not stolen the anti-gravity machine, it would not have been too late for the scientists to act. But History has always been littered with ‘What Ifs?’. Beware of clever men who cannot see the whole picture. For like a boy crawling out along a rotten branch to reach for a last, ripe fruit, Lord Luxon was blind to the dangers inherent in time travel. All he saw, indeed all he wanted to see, was one glorious opportunity . . .
When Peter told me that the Tar Man had lost possession of the device to my former master, Lord Luxon, I was afraid. For I knew Lord Luxon’s heart better, I think, than any man alive. I understood his parched soul and how far his thirst might take him. He was not always thus. Once, long ago, and for no personal gain, he saved my life. But now Lord Luxon was that most dangerous of creatures, a good man who has turned bad.
Lincoln’s Inn Fields, 1763
In which Lord Luxon takes a
fancy to New York
The sun shone down on the remarkable island of Manhattan, whose thrusting castles – too tall and numerous by far to be the stuff of fairy tales – held gravity in contempt as they vied to be the first to reach the sky. Great alleys of skyscrapers seemed to strut across the city, catching the rays of the dazzling sun and casting vast shadows behind them. It was August, and the air was heavy with an intense, moist heat and those foolish enough to leave the cool shelter of the giant buildings for the scorching street would soon find their shirts sticking to their backs and their hair plastered to their foreheads. More than one New Yorker, turning off Sixth Avenue into the comparative calm of Prince Street, found their gaze sidling over to an individual whose stance, as well as his dress, marked him out, even in SoHo, as somewhat unusual.
The buildings were smaller here, on a more human scale, a mere six storeys home of them with iron staircases zigzagging down towards the sidewalks that, mid-afternoon, were already in deep shade. While he waited for his valet to hail a cab, Lord Luxon stood in front of an Italian baker’s shop, its windows piled high with crusty loaves baked in the form of oversized doughnuts, in order to observe his reflection in the dusty window. He adjusted his posture. People were strolling by in various stages of undress, wearing shades and shorts and brightly coloured T-shirts, as they darted from one air-conditioned building to another. Lord Luxon, however, appeared cool and immaculate in an ivory three-piece suit, cut expertly from the lightest of cloths, which skimmed the contours of his slim figure. He assumed his habitual stance: legs apart, one arm neatly behind his back, the other resting lightly on his silver-tipped ebony cane. He consciously lengthened the muscles at the back of his neck so that he held his head at precisely that angle which announced, eloquently, that here was an English aristocrat, born of an ancient line of English aristocrats, and accustomed to all that life can afford, in whatever century he happened to find himself. He observed his silhouette and congratulated himself on discovering a tailor of such exceptional talent in an age when the male of the species seemed to have forgotten both the art and pleasure of self-adornment. And how curious it was that although well over two centuries separated his tailors, their respective premises, on London’s Savile Row, were but a few dozen paces from one another.
A middle-aged tourist, his sagging belly bulging over the waist of his shorts, stopped to stare for a moment at this vision in cream linen. Lord Luxon eyed him with distaste and thought of his cedar wood chests in 1763, specially imported from Italy, and the layers of exquisite silks they contained, the frothy lace, his embroidered, high-heeled shoes, his tricorn hats and brocade waistcoats, his dress wigs, his rouge and his black beauty spots in the shape of crescent moons. It was disappointing, he reflected, that twenty-first-century man’s sense of fashion had not kept pace with the truly staggering progress he had observed in every other walk of life. Although the current fashion for body piercing, tattoos and hair dyes in the wildest of colours was tempting – indeed, it might be amusing to have his navel pierced and a ruby, or perhaps a diamond or two, inserted . . . Lord Luxon suddenly laughed out loud, causing the staring tourist to make even less effort to conceal his curiosity. Faith, he could even have his own coat of arms tattooed on his shoulder! How deliciously unseemly!
Lord Luxon looked around him, still smiling. What a transformation this new millennium had worked on him. Little wonder, he thought, that the Tar Man, his errant henchman, had become so attached to this age of wonders. Deprived of the means to travel through time, Blueskin’s own century must now feel like a prison . . . Lord Luxon recalled the Tar Man’s expression, his rage and desperation and horror, as he realised that his master had stolen the ingenious time device and that, like the rest of humanity, he was once more limited to his own short span of history. Lord Luxon let a shiver of pity pass over him like a cold draught. And yet, extraordinary though he was, the Tar Man had disappointed him in the end. Just as Gideon had done. But what did that matter to him now?
Lord Luxon closed his eyes and listened to the roar of the city and sensed its throbbing pulse. How astonishing to witness what Britain’s wayward little colony had become! Those first American seeds had yielded a crop so bountiful it defied belief! This city took his breath away! It was as if the Manhattan sunshine had burned away the cloud of world-weariness and boredom that in his own time so rarely left him. Here he felt an energy and an excitement and a zest for life surging through him which he could scarcely contain. Here, his convalescent soul was regaining its appetite: sops of bread and milk were no longer enough. Now he wanted meat. He believed that
The annoying little man continued to stare at him and Lord Luxon glanced at the tourist’s dun-coloured excuse for a shirt, wrinkled and stained with sweat, and decided to acknowledge his presence with a disdainful bow, putting one foot in front of the other and pulling out a handkerchief from his top pocket as he did so.
‘Good day to you,’ Lord Luxon said. ‘Upon my word, sir, your very countenance makes the heat seem less tolerable, if that were possible . . .’
‘Why, on an afternoon such as this, it is difficult even to conceive of the notion of ice, or snow – although I heartily recommend that you try . . .’
An angry cloud scudded across the man’s red and shiny face and he did not reply, not quite understanding Lord Luxon’s meaning but detecting more than a hint of disrespect in his arrogant, peacock’s attitude. He scowled and clenched his fists and took half a step towards Lord Luxon, but immediately found himself confronted by a ruddy-cheeked man, with a black beard and pigtail and a chest the size of a small ship, who planted himself squarely between the overheated tourist and his master and proceeded to fold his arms as if it were a threat. The tourist took one look at Lord Luxon’s lackey in his worn white trousers and braces, his curious crimson jacket and his bulldog stare, and fled in the direction of Sixth Avenue, unable to decide if he had imagined the low growl or not. When he felt it was safe to do so, the breathless tourist looked back and saw that on each level of the emergency stairs that climbed up the red-brick building behind Lord Luxon, there was a man, seemingly standing to attention, in white trousers and military-style crimson jacket. ‘Who are these guys?’ he said under his breath, and found that all the hairs had risen on the back of his neck.
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