Home > Carved in Stone (The Blackstone Legacy, #1)

Carved in Stone (The Blackstone Legacy, #1)
Author: Elizabeth Camden

 

1

 


APRIL 1900

NEW YORK CITY

How could a man buy a new suit with a dozen eggs?

Patrick O’Neill sighed, protecting the basket of eggs as he navigated through the crowd of pedestrians to the tailor’s shop on Mulberry Street. He should have earned a bit of cash from drawing up Mrs. Donovan’s last will and testament, but the old woman paid him with eggs instead. She’d come to this country during the Irish Potato Famine, and Patrick had a soft spot for folks like her, so he settled for the eggs.

Life would be cheaper if he could buy ready-made suits like most people, but broad-shouldered men who stood six feet four inches tall rarely had that option. Everything Patrick wore had to be made to order, and it got expensive. Still, the tailor owed him for staving off an eviction last month.

A bell above the shop door dinged as Patrick entered, and the tailor greeted him warmly.

“There’s the Lower East Side’s most famous lawyer,” Mr. Collins said. “I figured we’d be seeing you.” The tailor continued stacking bolts of cloth on the cramped shelving over the only sewing machine in the overstuffed shop.

“What makes you say that?” Patrick asked, his Irish accent a little thicker than normal. He left Ireland when he was fourteen, but his natural brogue came back strong when he was among his own.

“Your ma was bragging about the big case you’ve got coming up,” Mr. Collins said. “What sort of man would battle the Blackstones in a rumpled old suit like the one you’re wearing?”

Patrick tried not to wince. “Let’s not go tossing that name around, okay? No one is supposed to know about this yet.”

Even the Blackstones didn’t know about it yet. They were the most powerful family in New York City, and they would come after him the instant they found out what was brewing. Surprise was one of the few advantages Patrick had, and he wanted to keep a lid on this case until the last possible moment.

“Fiona, come out here and take Mr. O’Neill’s measurements,” the tailor called toward the back of the shop.

Patrick braced himself. He’d hoped to escape this appointment without the tailor’s daughter waiting on him. Fiona was a pretty nineteen-year-old who looked at him with hot eyes and a hungry expression. She approached him with a tape measure, and Mr. Collins brought out a few bolts of cloth for Patrick to choose from.

“Those people are going to make mincemeat of you, boy-o,” Mr. Collins said in a worried tone. “They’ll send you running straight back to the seminary.”

“No!” Fiona tossed a measuring tape over Patrick’s shoulders and ran her hands across his back to straighten the tape. “Nobody wanted to see you become Father What-a-Waste. Turning away from the priesthood is the best thing you ever did.”

Last year Patrick had balked only two weeks shy of his vow to enter the priesthood, and guilt still plagued him. Father Doyle had paid for him to go to college and law school. They let him practice law the entire time he’d been in seminary because everyone assumed he would become a lawyer for the church. He owed them, but as his final vows loomed, so had his incessant, unquenchable longing for a family.

He wanted a wife. He wanted children of his own, not just the chance to minister to others. He wanted a huge, rollicking family with kids climbing all over him when he returned from work and a pretty wife waiting for him at home.

Patrick was thirty-four and still unmarried, which caused people in the neighborhood to hurl their daughters in his direction. At the moment, Fiona’s hands were traveling in a dangerous direction as she measured the length of his inseam.

“Fi,” he said, feeling his face flush, “a little decorum, please.”

Mercifully, her father grabbed the tape measure and shooed Fiona to the other side of the shop.

Patrick nodded to the basket of eggs. “The eggs and my help with getting the landlord off your back last month will make us square for a new suit, won’t it?”

Mr. Collins nodded as he continued taking measurements. “That it will. Now, tell me, boy, what germ of insanity prompted you to take on a seedy client like Mick Malone?”

Mick Malone was the most contemptible man Patrick had ever represented. Mick had escaped convictions for kidnapping and murder, but everyone knew he was guilty. Now he was hoping to cash in on his notoriety by penning a memoir, and the Blackstones’ reaction was going to be savage.

“Mr. Malone is entitled to legal representation, same as any man,” Patrick replied.

“You’d better take a bath after dealing with that one,” Mr. Collins warned. “Your mother said Mick was drunk as a skunk when you met with him last week.” The tailor spoke quietly, but news of Patrick’s mother’s gossiping was worrisome. They lived in the Five Points, a rowdy Irish slum where secrets spread like wildfire. Patrick needed to know exactly what his mother had blabbed all over the neighborhood.

“What else did Ma tell you?”

“Oh, you know, how proud she is of you. How she wishes you’d marry and start giving her grandbabies, now that the church won’t get you. Don’t blame your ma. She’s bursting with pride whenever she talks about you, Patrick lad.”

That might be, but she needed to stop running on about his clients. His typical cases battling evictions or bailing someone out of jail were as dull as watching paint dry. Not the Blackstone case. Defending Mick Malone against the Blackstones was the most important case of his career.

“Come for a fitting next week,” Mr. Collins said. “You’ll look as smart as any of those shifty Blackstone lawyers. You are Ireland’s and America’s finest!”

Patrick nodded, wishing he was half as confident as his tailor.

 

Patrick bought his mother a bouquet of daisies on the way home. The flowers would help soften her up before he read her the riot act over the way she was jabbering about his cases. Birdie O’Neill’s greatest hobby in life was bragging about her son, and it had become a problem.

When Patrick first began practicing law, he’d asked her not to discuss his cases. She’d pinched his cheek and promised to behave, but inevitably he’d hear about her nattering whenever he visited the barbershop or a pub. It was usually harmless, but this case was different.

It had all started when Father Doyle showed up at their apartment two months ago, pleading for Patrick’s help with the infamous Mick Malone case, and Birdie overheard everything. Patrick didn’t want the case, but how could he turn down his old benefactor?

He walked up to the fourth-floor apartment he shared with his mother and let himself in. Birdie lay sprawled on the sofa at a strange angle, watching the pigeons feed on the lump of suet she set on the windowsill for them.

“You okay, Ma?” he asked.

Birdie turned her face toward him and sent him a smile. “Daisies! How nice.”

She still made no move to rise. Patrick crossed to the other side of the room, where they kept a pitcher filled with water from the pump that served everyone in the building. On the way, he noticed the cake his mother had brought home from the bakery. It looked like a basket. The bottom half used interlocking strands of chocolate frosting to look like wicker, and real strawberries were mounded atop the cake. If he didn’t know better, he’d have mistaken it for a genuine basket of strawberries.

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