image from the book The Brittle Sea


Matthew Ballantine, as always, believed he oversaw his own destiny, he felt his fate in life was not a pre-determined thing, but something he forged for himself. As always, he was wrong on that score and fate had a different outcome awaiting Matthew Ballantine III to that which he envisaged. It’s a famous saying, ‘ignorance is bliss’ and unwittingly Ballantine made his plans, blissfully unaware his enabler, William Harker, was also making plans behind his employer’s back.

Maggie, though she didn’t know it, was a hostage. A hostage to one man’s whim and in the most literal sense she was soon to be the hostage of William Harker. Harker had watched and waited outside the residence of Mary James, patiently as always, until Mary James had gone out to one of her social meetings, a women’s suffrage meeting. He knew from weeks of surveillance on the James’ house that the suffrage meeting she was attending would keep Mrs. James away from her home for a good three hours. There was only a maid to stand in Harker’s way and she would be taking an hour off for shopping, where she would also meet her boyfriend. Maggie was at Harker’s mercy.

The main entrance to the James residence was too open to the public, Harker preferred to work in the shadows. It was a little after eleven in the morning when Harker made his move. He had a carriage waiting with a trusted accomplice he had worked with before. He had a small towel and bottle of chloroform at the ready. The rear of the house was accessible via a narrow alleyway that ran between the houses. It was a simple matter to pick the lock to the back door. Harker knew the downstairs layout from his previous sojourn in the James’ home and he headed for the kitchen area, as silently as he could. He hoped Maggie would be having a cup of tea in the kitchen, and he was rewarded with the sight of her sat at the kitchen table, the door to the hallway being slightly ajar. He was in luck as Maggie had her back to the door and he slowly crept in, towel now soaked in pungent chloroform, ready to press over her mouth and nose. He was quick, but not quick enough. Maggie heard a gentle creak of the floorboards and turned just as Harker was about to strike. Harker quelled her scream with the towel and grabbed her round the neck at the same time. Maggie’s flailing arms caught Harker on the side of his head, and he lost his grip. Maggie pushed away from him and stumbled against the kitchen table, knocking her tea to the floor.

“Who are you?” Maggie screamed, but the sound was cut off as she grasped her throat, coughed once and fell backwards. The chloroform had done its work, but as Maggie fell, heavily, she hit her head on the side of the solid wooden kitchen table.

Harker hated it when a plan went awry but knew there was no time to lose. Her took Maggie’s arms, pulled her up and dragged her backwards out of the kitchen, down the hall and to the front door. He opened the door and whistled once. The carriage across the road immediately crossed the road and the driver stopped the carriage, climbed down quickly and secured the two black horses. He then raced to the front door looking about him all the while. Harker pulled Maggie’s inert body to the door and his accomplice took her legs. The two men were in luck, the street was deserted. Maggie was soon secure inside the cab with Harker holding her upright. The accomplice was geeing up the two horses just as the maid came around the corner. With a crack of a whip over the horse’s heads, the carriage raced down the road and was gone from sight as the maid reached the alleyway.

The maid’s gaze took in the James’ front door, three doors down from the alleyway and she walked slowly to the steps leading up to the front door, noticing with a puzzled frown that the door was wide open. The young girl entered tentatively and searched for any signs of forced entry. It was another few minutes before she realised Maggie was no longer in the house. More time was lost before she connected the open front door to the disappearance of Maggie. Precious more time was also lost as the maid was undecided about using the James’ newly installed telephone. When she eventually made the telephone phone call to the police the desk sergeant spoke to was sceptical, but an officer was despatched to be on the safe side.

Several hours passed before Mary James arrived home to find the police were searching for Maggie. By this time, Harker and the abducted Maggie were in a safe house twenty-miles away. But Harker could not wake Maggie and he feared that the blow to her head had done some damage to Maggie’s brain, and that she could even be at death’s door.

Copyright Tom Kane © 2019

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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 the spring of 2019, 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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