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London—September 1, 1861
Agent Julia Richardson prided herself on her ability to make herself nearly invisible; it was the only way to survive at the agency—The American Bureau of Inter-dimensional Travel. Having worked as a field agent for nearly eight years, Julia had been to a lot of balls in a variety of eras, but the one she was at that night took the cake.
This particular ball, which was being thrown by Lady Winchester with hopes of finding a bride for her son, Matthew, the Duke of Westhampton. Julia watched as dozens of girls—all around the age of eighteen, which was a full twelve years younger than the duke—throw themselves at him. It was like watching Survivor: Victorian Era as it was obvious that Matthew wanted nothing to do with any of them.
There was a reason for that, of course. It was a thinly veiled secret that Matthew had been involved with the very married and recently deceased Lady Caroline Witherbee. Having studied portraits of the dearly departed, Julia can understand what he saw in her. Unfortunately, at least for Matthew, his interest in Caroline was the reason that Julia had traveled all the way from the twenty-first century to Ye Olde England—she was sent to investigate anyone and everyone that knew Lady Witherbee in the weeks before her untimely death at the hands of what appeared to be Jack the Ripper, despite the fact that the first documented Ripper killing wasn’t for another twenty-seven years. Chances are that Caroline wasn’t killed by Jack the Ripper, but Julia’s boss, a Ripperologist in his spare time, was willing to take the time and considerable expense—not that he would be paying for it himself—to check it out just in case.
So, here she was in Victorian England, watching all these young girls parade themselves around for a man who could possibly be the most notorious serial killer in history—not that Julia really believed that Matthew was Jack the Ripper; he was far too old to be the man that profilers have spent over a hundred years studying. That didn’t, however, mean that he wasn’t Caroline’s killer.
Julia had spent the last week and a half investigating him as well as Caroline’s husband, Arthur Lord Witherbee, and a stable boy that worked at Witherbee House, and the only one of them that she could see as a murderer was Matthew. Arthur White-Garrot, Lord Witherbee appeared to be crushed over the death of his wife—of course he could be faking his grief, but it smelled sincere. Julia was able to clear the stable boy—whose name was William—not Willie or Bill—Bryant—as he hadn’t actually been having an affair with Caroline. It only appeared as if he was because he was involved with her ladies’ maid, a girl named Jennie.
Julia snapped back to attention as the music changed from a country dance to a waltz. She looked to see where Matthew was only to find him coming her way—maybe she wasn’t as invisible as she thought she was.
“Mrs. Fairbanks,” he called, and Julia jumped to attention as that was the name she was going by for this mission.
“Hello, My Lord,” she replied as he stopped in front of her.
“I would be most pleased if I could have this dance,” he said, his eyes sparkling.
“I’m sure that there are more…suitable girls with whom you could be dancing.”
“More suitable? Maybe. More interesting? I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” he replied.