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Ballantine Learns the Truth.

It had taken Harker weeks of enquiries, bribes and threats, to find his quarry and his tireless work and diligence had finally paid off. Having confirmed a few weeks ago that Magda, or rather Maggie, was living with Mary James, Harker had started wondering about why she had moved from Blackmore’s apartment. He was standing on the corner of a street, much the same as any street in the area, but this street had one particular building that held his attention, it was the home of Mary James. His trick with the small box he had delivered to Maggie had confirmed Maggie’s whereabouts but had shown no other indication of her rumoured condition, her pregnancy. But then, Harker knew nothing about pregnancy. What he did know is that people in desperate need always turn to friends when the going got tough and Maggie’s pregnancy was going to be a tough one. Unmarried and soon to be mother who had no idea who she was or where she came from was of course going to be tough.

Of course, Ballantine would have to be informed of the pregnancy and he would no doubt fly into one of his rages. But what will be will be and Magda’s pregnancy by Blackmore, Harker assumed Blackmore was the culprit, was something Ballantine would have to deal with in his own way. Harker may be cold blooded killer, but he drew the line with women, especially pregnant women, and children. Though it was true, he mused, that in his line of work there is always collateral damage. Like the unfortunate woman in Europe who committed suicide after Harker had despatched her husband. That, to Harker, was unavoidable and not of his making or desire. He took no responsibility for the actions of someone outside his sphere of influence. Harker, of course, was a true sociopath and could always argue in his own head that he wasn’t responsible for the actions of others.

A horse drawn cab pulled up at number 1142 and two woman, one obviously pregnant, alighted. That was the confirmation to Harker and he watched with satisfaction as the women made their slow way up the steps to the large Victorian house and entered using a door key.

Harker turned and made his way back to his employee’s hotel in New York, happy with a job well done.


It was as Harker surmised and he was once more standing in the presence Matthew Ballantine, patiently waiting for Ballantine to calm down. Having told Ballantine that his betrothed, Magda, was pregnant, in all likelihood by Blackmore, Ballantine had exploded in a rage, trashing the small coffee table in his hotel room and ripping the New York Times to shreds, a paper Ballantine diligently bought but rarely read fully. Within a few minutes, Ballantine had expended his anger and was back to the fool that Harker had known for so long.

“What do I do now? She is damaged goods. What a waste of money.” Ballantine was leaning on a writing desk with both hands palm down, trembling with the exertion of venting his anger. He picked up the desk’s chair he had attempted to kick across the room and sat down heavily at the small desk he had never used in his long and protracted stay at the hotel.

“Perhaps. Perhaps not.”

Ballantine looked up at Harker. “What do you mean.”

“In my business, I keep my ear to the ground, in order to know what’s going on. I know something about Blackmore that you don’t.”

“You framed him for the mur…”

“Never mention that again, Mr. Ballantine, not here or in public, especially not in public.”

Ballantine stood up quickly and looked away from Harker’s malevolent gaze. He made a show of parting the curtains to a window and looked out on the street below, a nonchalant show of bravado and devil may care that he didn’t feel. Ballantine knew Harker’s eyes were on him, burning into his back, involuntarily making his lower lip tremble. He almost felt like bursting into tears, falling to his knees and begging Harker for mercy. But Ballantine gritted his teeth and slowly muttered, “Very well. What do you know?” Ballantine tried desperately to keep his voice from trembling but made a poor job of it.

“I know Blackmore has picked up a valuable package for his ship’s owner.”


Harker could tell Ballantine was bored with the conversation and was now fiddling with a pencil on his desk.

No attention to detail. No attention span at all.

“Diamonds, Mr. Ballantine. Blackmore is taking possession of a fortune in diamonds, for his owner, Gordon Bellagon.”

Ballantine was immediately focused on what Harker was telling him. If nothing else, Ballantine paid attention to money. “How much is a fortune?”

“Probably more than $30,000 and Bellagon, rather his sister, will be using them as bribes.”

“Bribes? For what?”

“Contracts. She owns a sweat-shop, not far from Washington Square. Her intention is to pull in as many contracts for producing uniforms for anything from the police to municipal workers. These diamonds, all very small and all worth no more than a few hundred dollars in their own right, amount to a big investment for the Bellagons. Bribery is one thing, but bribery with diamonds is a classy touch. I’m sure we could find a way of relieving them of their diamonds, before they even receive them from Blackmore.”

“And how would you manage that?”

“I have a plan I am working on. That’s all you need to know right now.”

Ballantine, pulled open a draw and selected a cigar from an ornate cigar box. He clipped the end of the large Havana cigar and lit it. “What about the Bellagons?” Ballantine said, puffing out a dense cloud of smoke.

“They will be none the wiser.”

“What do you mean?”

“Accidents happen, Mr. Ballantine. Accidents happen, as we have all seen with the tragedy of the Titanic. People sometimes lose everything and if there is nobody around to claim the diamonds then nobody is the wiser. Do I have your permission to pursue this course of action?”

Ballantine took a drag on his cigar and blew out the smoke. “That sweat-shop you mentioned. There are a lot of people working there. Potential witnesses to whatever you intend doing?”

“There are,” Harker said, “and people being people there will be a need to, shall we say, suppress the truth. I will of course require funding.”

Ballantine nodded. “Same terms?”

“Same terms, Mr. Ballantine. Always the same terms.”

As he closed the door to Ballantine’s hotel rooms, William Harker was already making plans in his head that would be far from the same terms he always worked for when he did business with Matthew Ballantine III. This time, Harker was working on plans that would make him rich and provide for his own wife’s needs at the same time. Plans that very much involved Magda and her unborn child.

Copyright Tom Kane © 2018

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MARCH 15, 1931

APRIL 15, 1912



















This is a first draft, so please forgive spelling & grammatical errors. Context and characters may change between now and the final publication date.

When published as an eBook and paperback at the end of 2018, this book will be the first in a trilogy: The Brittle Sea, The Brittle Land and The Brittle Sky.

As a English expat author living in Cyprus, you may think my life revolves around cocktails by the pool. You would be wrong. In ten years on the island I’ve had my fair share of adventures and interesting experiences.

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