An Unlikely Beginning — Chapter 1
In the far corner of a seedy speakeasy known as the Blue Feather, seventeen year old Ruth Squire tried to avoid the interested eye of a repugnant patron. The impatient bartender waved his hand toward the stage—it was her turn to sing, but the metallic taste of fear drenched her tongue and slithered downward until her stomach burned. She took a step back.
A female voice whispered from behind, “Remember why we are doing this Ruthie. You can’t abandon him now.”
Slowly, courage overtook the fear. One step—another, until she stood center stage. The piano began the prelude, and she closed her eyes. A few tremulous notes exhaled through ruby lips, but strengthened as memories of the murderous carnage at home unfolded and steeled her will. The choice to save him was hers. Instead of a pack of crude, bawdy men in a smoke filled room, she envisioned Peter, the man she came to rescue. Her eyes opened, and she remembered…
Late Friday afternoon, February 1929
A shard of light punctured the somber, country scene, a flash that vanished so quickly, Ruth Squire wondered if it was imagination or reality. The next instant, a well-dressed man emerged from behind a far off willow tree and disappeared down the dirt road, alone. From that distance, she couldn’t tell his age, but noticed the black fedora hat, the dark suit, and shiny black shoes. In light of the recent murders, not only in Detroit proper, but even in her own house, fear reminded her it wasn’t over.
The snow fell silently, covering the dead grass, and dusting the grave stones in the antiquated cemetery on the edge of town. Winter decided to creep into the quiet necropolis as if to remind its temporary occupants who remained in charge. There was no rhyme or reason to this murder, no logical explanation, yet here they stood in front of a casket about to be lowered into the ground. Ruth’s heels sank into the lifeless sod, but at her side, Peter Kirby gripped her elbow a bit tighter. She wanted to cry, tried to force it…almost willed the tears to spring forth, but when she blinked, the rough sandpaper she called eyelids dissolved any thread of emotion. So far, the year 1929 was a complete disaster.
The air was silent except for the forlorn cry of a faraway mourning dove. Ruth looked to the sky and felt tiny snowflakes kiss her numb cheeks. We shouldn’t be here, this shouldn’t be happening. Whose bizarre idea was this, anyway? She looked up into Peter’s solemn face. A shiver ran through her and it was an automatic response to lean into him for warmth. The last thing she wanted to do was attend this funeral. Her heart was too raw, the pain too fresh. Surprised at the paltry attendance, she looked from one stone face to the next. Why did they bother to come? Why did I?
Finally, the last scripture was read, the last hymn was sung, and the ritual handfuls of dirt thumped against the wooden box deep in the hole. It’s over.
Peter deftly steered her toward the automobile, settled her into the front seat, and wrapped a plaid, flannel blanket around both legs. She smiled at him for his thoughtfulness. Mother was right about him, at least. Maybe her motive to marry me off was skewed, but at least, it turned out to be the right choice…maybe. “Let’s go straight home, Peter, I’m sure Father is feeling our absence. He was more than a little upset when I insisted he stay home. The guilt grows each day for my part in his pneumonia. Has it only been a few weeks since I tried to sneak out my bedroom window? Look at the havoc I’ve wreaked and the lives I’ve destroyed in such a short time.”
“Ruth, I will not hear anymore talk of your blame. You were acting no different than any other young woman in your position. Do you think you were the first girl to sneak out of a window?” Peter squeezed her hand. “Think of it this way…we would never have met if you had let that window stifle your adventurous spirit.” He smiled. “Your mother wouldn’t have arranged the marriage between us. It could have been so much worse. We could have hated each other, had no attraction whatsoever. Let’s not let all this unpleasantness tear us apart. We were meant to be together.”
The grim landscape passed by in a kaleidoscope of white snowflakes. Ruth tried to make sense of the conflict in her soul. How can Peter think that? Mother and Sarah, shot. A strange man gunned down in the hallway, and who was the man at the door who ran away? Guilt played a continuous scene-by-scene silent movie of the past events in her head, leaving her exhausted and depressed. It was my fault, she thought. All of it.
It all appeared so innocent at the time. She was young, impulsive…adventurous. Sneaking out of bedroom windows was almost a rite of passage at seventeen or eighteen years old. Everyone did it. This time, something snapped in Mother and decided the solution to this insubordinate behavior was to marry her off to Peter Kirby. Appalled at the time, Ruth fought against it—until she saw him. Sun kissed hair, piercing blue eyes, athletic build. She fell hard for him, much to her surprise. Unfortunately, Hattie Morgenstern came to claim a childhood betrothal to Peter from their homeland. Once more, Ruth acted impulsively and ran away, setting in motion a series of sinister events.
My fault, I admit. I acted impulsively, once again. But am I to blame for Mother’s plight? I am certainly not responsible for the actions of the scoundrel Captain Alexander Adams. All this insanity began long before I was born.
Peter spoke gently in her ear. “Ruth, we’re home. I must see to my horses and the milk route. I will be back after I take care of the obligations.” He helped her out of the automobile, and they walked hand in hand to the front door. “I know this isn’t the proper time to talk about this, but in light of what’s happened, I think we need to marry right away.”
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