Today's Reading



The way the yellow-back novels tell it, being a female detective is full of flash and breathless adventure. To look at the covers, you'd be hard pressed to think of a more glamorous vocation: sly, svelte heroines smoking cigarettes and toting Colt revolvers, bursting onto murder scenes with petticoats billowing. Well, trust me, the real thing isn't like that at all. I tried my hand with a Colt .45, but it was much too heavy. I don't smoke, I'm more skinny than svelte, and my skirts are distinctly not of the billowing variety. As for glamour,'s hard to look glamorous when you're being thrown face-first to the floor.

I should know. By the autumn of 1886, I'd had plenty of practice.

If you'd told me back in January that I would be learning jujitsu, I'd have laughed, mostly because I'd never heard the word jujitsu. A humble housemaid from Five Points doesn't have much occasion to acquaint herself with Japanese martial arts, no matter how devotedly she studies Harper's Weekly. Of course, she has even less occasion to learn about ghosts, or shades or fae, or half a hundred other things collectively known as the paranormal. Your average housemaid, like the vast majority of New Yorkers, goes through her whole life without ever knowing such things exist. As for me, I'd learned about them only recently, and my world had never been the same.

For the most part I was grateful for that, but every now and then I found myself pining for the simple days when I was just Rose the Maid, scrubbing floors and mending linens. Back when Thomas Wiltshire was my employer instead of my partner; before he asked me to join him at the special branch of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency and spend my time chasing after all things paranormal.

Back when it never would have occurred to him to throw me to the floor like a sack of dirty linens.

On the morning in question—the day all the trouble started—he'd done it twice already, and I'd had about enough.

"Don't worry, Miss Gallagher," he said, "it's early days yet." And he offered me a hand, which is as close to being gentlemanly as it's possible to get when you've just tossed a lady onto her face.

Except it wasn't early days, not anymore. After eight solid months of training, I ought to have been able to last more than ten seconds against my sparring partner, even if he was the instructor. Though to be fair, it didn't help that I still couldn't come within five feet of Thomas Wiltshire without feeling a little weak in the knees, which is something of a disadvantage in hand-to-hand combat.

"It's terribly frustrating, I know," he said as he pulled me to my feet, "but don't be discouraged. I spent the better part of my first six months in Japan on my backside. You'll get there."

And without further ado, he grabbed my wrist, swept my ankles, and we both went down. He landed on top of me, pinning me beneath him. His face hovered barely an inch above mine, the press of his body so close that I could practically feel his heartbeat against my own flesh.

"Good," he said brightly.

It took me a moment to find my voice. "H-How is this good?"

"You landed brilliantly. Falling properly is half the battle."

I'd fallen properly, and no mistake.

There was a long pause. Thomas made no move to release me, apparently oblivious to the scandalous disposition of our persons. Then: "Are you going to try to break free?"

"Yes, of course." A furious blush warmed my face. "That is, I should have, but—"

"But the moment's rather passed." He rolled gracefully to his feet. "Next time. In any case, I suppose we ought to adjourn. We'll need you in top shape tonight."

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