Rebekah Lee Jenkins

The Night They
Came for Til

Battle scarred midwife.

Suspicious miscarriages.

Treachery and deceit lurk under the surface…

Midwife Shannon Stone suffers a brutal attack when the women’s clinic she works for in London, England is burned to the ground.

Her Uncle sends her to Canada where she will be safe.

He is wrong.

Within hours of arriving in Oakland, Manitoba Shannon realizes the innocent life of Lady Harper’s baby is in jeopardy. 

As Shannon scrambles to gather evidence to protect the child – shocking betrayals come to light.

Lady Harper’s baby is not the only life on the line.

Shannon’s battle has just begun.

In This Series...

Chapter 1

I woke up on a ship sailing west with a note from Malcolm, money, clothes, and my doctor’s bag. That was it. The list of what I didn’t have was longer. My eyes slid shut as I tried to block out the thought.

A week and a half at sea and I still couldn’t bring myself to open the note. I was afraid of what it said. My hands shook with terror thinking that Til may be dead. There was no way to manage that thought. The fragile grip holding my sanity would slip; I would be lost. Wincing with pain, I went to my doctor’s bag and pulled out the laudanum and the note. A slow, long sip of laudanum, much more than the suggested fifteen drops, swirled through my veins and unlocked the pain, taking the sharp edges away from my thoughts.

I ran my fingers over Malcolm’s handwriting, anything to be close to him. I picked up the note to see if I could smell his aftershave.

A knock on the door interrupted my thoughts.

“Your supper, Miss Stone,” the steward shouted through the door.

I put the laudanum bottle on top of the note and went to the door to retrieve my tray. I wondered how much Malcolm had paid this little man to serve me my meals so I could stay alone in my berth.

“Thank you.” I gave him a tip. I tipped him every day because he was the only thing preventing me from starving to death. Most days I couldn’t stand the thought of facing anyone.

I alternated between worrying about where the ship was taking me and not caring. Some were speaking about Canada— I shut their voices out. I was so sick I wanted to die, then I wanted to fight something, and in the end, I lay there day after day, as my body slowly healed. The bruises were fading; the cuts were healing. Before long, I could sit without wincing in pain. My body was young and resilient; inexorably it healed and left my mind far behind, still broken.

Fragments of the past came back to me, often when I was sleeping. The memories would make me wake screaming. If I thought of the attack, it made me sick to my stomach. After calculating dates to figure out how long I had been at sea, my mind stubbornly refused to acknowledge the fact that my time of menstruation had not occurred yet. My hands shook as I carefully went through the numbers again. Cold sweat of sheer terror soaked through my bodice as the realization sunk in that I was pregnant. My mind raced back to the attack; I couldn’t stop it.

***

The night they came for Til, Malcolm found me half in the gutter and half on the street. He closed his eyes and turned away so I couldn’t see the horror on his face. Then he pulled off his coat, bundled me up, and carried me to a hospital where he knew a doctor.

“Where’s Til?” he asked through clenched teeth before placing me on a gurney.

“She told me to run. I shouldn’t have,” I wept.

His eyes met the doctor’s.

“I trust you, Joshua, take extra care,” Malcolm said in a voice so low the doctor leaned in to hear him.

I drifted in and out of consciousness. I wanted to scream and never stop.

“No expense spared. Do you understand what I’m saying?” Malcolm demanded.

Joshua must have nodded because I didn’t hear him say anything at all to that except, “I’ll look after it.”

***

Can I prove that The Society for the Suppression of Vice ordered this attack? No, I cannot. My body doesn’t care; my mind can’t comprehend it.

Pregnant with my attacker’s baby, my mind was fragmented with disbelief. The dates did not lie. Finally, I took another deep swig of laudanum and opened the letter.

 

September 30th, 1904

 

Dear Shannon,

 

It is with a heavy heart that I send this letter to you. Putting you on that ship with no one to assist you is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I wish we were right there with you. Someday we will all be together again. It’s a promise.

 

In July, Til received a letter from a close friend, Lady Madeline Harper. She had asked Til to send a midwife to Oakland, Manitoba, Canada. At the time Til was going to say no, as you were already enrolled for the school year. In light of recent events, I have sent instruction that you are to be that midwife. I have already sent your qualifications, including your two years of training at the London School of Medicine for Women and date of arrival. Lord Harper has assured me the town constable has been retained to ensure you are protected at every step of this journey. You will have your own home, so you will have privacy to study and heal in the months ahead.

 

Til has been incarcerated on charges of the promotion of vice. The pamphlets detailing the proper use of birth control were traced to her clinic. I suspect the printer we switched to handed her name to the Society. Her trial date has not yet been set. I have established a legal team, and she will be exonerated in due time and with due process. Do not worry yourself for her. She has the finest legal minds at her disposal.

 

It is Til’s wish that you are not here for this “circus” as she calls it. It is her sincere desire that you have a long and prestigious medical career. She is concerned that your reputation as a doctor would be muddied by this attack. It is her wish that you remain in Canada until we have this settled.

 

The clinic was burned to the ground at the time of attack, so there is no need to worry about who will care for the premises.

 

I know that you have been through a horrendous ordeal and I am so sorry, Shannon. I am hoping that Lady Harper will take care of you as you take care of her in her time of need. I will find the men who did this and I will deal with them to the fullest extent of the law.

Know that we love you and care for you. I will keep you apprised of all matters relating to your aunt. If you want for anything, do not hesitate to ask. I understand Lady Harper’s husband is most reasonable and generous. I trust they will care for you, as you are so easy to love.

 

I’m so sorry about the interruption of your education. We will arrange for you to continue your studies next year after Lady Harper’s baby is born.

 

I hope your travel has been as pleasant as possible. A letter will be ready for you when you arrive.

 

With Love,

Malcolm

 

Pain sliced through my heart. Right then, in that moment, I needed Malcolm. He was the only father I knew. I understood his whole life would revolve around Til’s trial, and I couldn’t help with that.  A staunch supporter of the Malthusian league, Til faced two years in prison for educating women on how to use diaphragms and various other means of birth control. She had worried about the new printer but had no choice. The women we helped couldn’t read and needed diagrams. The Society for the Suppression of Vice believed the diagrams were obscene. Her trial would be a long, bloody battle. Grudgingly, I saw the wisdom in getting me out of England to preserve my professional reputation.

I reread the letter, the part about how my attackers would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I wished that promise healed my heart.

***

I arrived in Brandon after traveling across Canada. I was weary and so thin my clothes didn’t fit. Two long weeks ago, I had run out of nux vomica and I couldn’t keep anything down. During the day, I refused to think about it. Only at night, when I had no control over my thoughts, the images came back. I desperately tried to push it out of my mind.

I sat, freezing to death in a train station, in what looked like the middle of a frozen wilderness. How could it be this cold? It was only the middle of November! I put my head between my legs since I worried I would throw up again. My throat was raw from the frequent vomiting. When my stomach finally settled, I got up and wandered to the window.

As I did so, a man approached. He was wearing a uniform and stood over six feet tall with broad shoulders. I hoped this wasn’t the constable. The sheer size of him terrified me, until he smiled; his hazel eyes crinkled at the corners. He came closer, that smile genuine and warm. I tried to smile back, but instead I vomited. All over his shoes. I groaned with mortification and wished for the ground to open up and swallow me.

It didn’t.

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What I loved about this book is rich, deep characters. Lot's of historical information, babies, being born, Shannon and her story, thoughts, feelings. Wonderful book to read, moved along at a nice pace, no typos that I saw. Can't wait for her next books! Thank you, Rebekah Lee Jenkins!

Amazon Reviewer