Where the Lady BelongsBy: Laura Landon
A Bedford Street Brigade Story
Mack Wallace studied the massive crowd gathered inside the room in the Crystal Palace that housed the Koh-i-Noor diamond, the largest diamond in the world. No wonder a correspondent of the Times reputed the diamond to be the lion of The Great Exhibition of 1851. No wonder the Exhibition committee had taken such precautions to make sure nothing happened to the diamond.
It was Mack’s responsibility to protect the exhibit, which turned out to be a more difficult job than he thought it would. The crowds were enormous. Even the policemen posted at the entrance and exit of the cordoned-off area that housed the display had trouble holding back the multitude of spectators anxious to see a diamond of such enormity.
Today’s crowd seemed by far the largest, the most difficult to control of all the crowds pushing to see the exhibit. Perhaps it was because The Great Exhibition only had four more days to run. Perhaps because today’s weather had been perfect for an outing. Perhaps simply because Mack had been at this for more than five months, and constant worry and fatigue were wearing on him. He would be glad when this duty was over.
He scanned the crowd again. The room was not only overflowing with visitors anxious to boast that they’d seen the world’s largest diamond, but every local and foreign dignitary in the world seemed to be in attendance. Anyone who held a position of importance was here to see the exhibits before the last day.
Mack recognized Lord John Russell, the Prime Minister, and the Marquess of Lansdowne, Leader of the House of Lords. He also recognized the Foreign Secretary, Viscount Palmerston, and Home Secretary Sir George Grey.
Mack didn’t want to count how many foreign dignitaries were also in the gathering. The responsibility of having so many important persons gathered in one area caused him to intensify his guard. The growing number of spectators streaming into the area caused even more concern.
Mack searched for his partner, Quinn Walker. When he found him, he motioned for him to make his way to the opposite side of the exhibit. He and Quinn had been investigators with Scotland Yard for several years and had then gone their separate ways, finding jobs on the side that earned them more than enough money to live well.
Thankfully, Mack and the five other investigators who’d left the force at the same time had reputations for being the best at what they did. They’d made an excellent team while at Scotland Yard. On days like today, Mack wished they were all here to help him guard the diamond.
Quinn caught Mack’s eye and gave a nod of understanding. Before he’d taken his first step, a shot rang out from somewhere near the diamond.
All hell broke loose.
Scores of men and women pushed and shoved their way toward the exits. Screams filled the air, while genuine terror and confusion erupted throughout the room. Mack’s greatest fear was that some would be trampled in the fracas. He fought the urge to rush forward, but he couldn’t leave the diamond. That was his primary responsibility.
People farthest from the doors shoved those in front of them. The stronger of the crowd pushed those ahead of them to move faster.
“Calm!” Mack bellowed. “Everyone remain calm!”
Quinn rushed forward. He reached for an arm here and a shoulder there in an effort to try to slow the rioting crowd. Although the crush seemed to slacken, Mack couldn’t say so with any certainty. Finally, the waves of people thinned.
Mack held his post at the diamond as the remaining spectators poured through the exits. Blood pounded inside his head as he realized that an attempt to steal the diamond had been thwarted.
He took another look at the diamond encased in the special display and breathed a sigh of relief. Then he turned his gaze to watch the last rush of people exit the room.
That’s when he saw her.
A young woman stood near the exit. Her auburn hair was pulled loosely back from her face, and she wore a large brimmed bonnet with streamers of netting tied beneath her chin.
Her gown was green and white checked, with full sleeves and an eyelet bodice and high neckline. Her wide skirt made her waist appear small and delicate. She looked clean and fresh, and the blush of excitement on her cheeks gave her a wholesome and healthy look. Her hands twisting at her waist, and her deep brown eyes, open wide and filled with terror, took away the look of contentment he expected to see on someone so lovely.