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Authors: Carol McCleary

Tags: #Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Historical, #Women Sleuths

No Job for a Lady

BOOK: No Job for a Lady
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.

 

M
ICHELLE
M
ASHOKE-
A
NDERSON

a beautiful soul … warm heart … and very caring lady

you gave me hope in all aspects of my life

thank you

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

With writing the Nellie Bly mysteries I have been able to meet many wonderful and fabulous people. But the
BEST
and
most wonderful surprise
was to be reconnected to my Very First Best Friend …
Pam Percy
 … I never felt so lucky and happy to have her back in my life! It was the best gift Nellie could have ever given me.

And speaking of other beautiful gifts I’ve received …

The most fabulous girls to work out with in the world! Take a bow ladies … Sheila, Edie, and Darlene.

And I want to thank the girls at my favorite place,
Underground Café,
for always being so friendly and warm to me: Kacie Van Norman, Miranda Usselman, and Kasey Flewelling, and there is no way I can forget Carol DeCost, a Very Special Lady —
thank you, girls!

An enormous thank-you to all the people who have picked up my books. I hope Nellie has inspired you.

And last, but not least in any manner, for this book would not be if it wasn’t for Kelly Quinn, editor at Tor/Forge … thank you for being in my corner and watching my back. You are the best!

 

CONTENTS

Title Page

Copyright Notice

Dedication

Acknowledgments

Frontispiece

Epigraph

Prologue

Epigraph

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Epigraph

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Epigraph

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Epigraph

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Epigraph

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Illustration: Mexico City grand carriage

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Illustration: Mexican Family

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Illustration: Aztec God

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Illustration: The Floating Gardens

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Cast of Characters

Photograph: Gertrude Bell

Photograph: Lily Langtry

Illustration: Frederic Gebhard

Photograph: Butch Cassidy, Sundance Kid, and others

Note from the Editors

Forge Books by Carol McCleary

About the Author

Copyright

 

N
ELLIE
B
LY (1886)

 

The treasure which you think not worth taking trouble and pains to find, this one alone is the real treasure you are longing for all your life. The glittering treasure you are hunting for day and night lies buried on the other side of that hill yonder.

—B. T
RAVEN
,
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

 

PROLOGUE

1886
Teotihuacán, Mexico

The City of the Gods. A place so haunted by the bloodthirsty deities of ancient Mexico that the 200,000 people who populated it disappeared without a trace and no one dared take their place. The mighty Aztec emperors so feared its fierce spirits that they came once a year to offer a sacrifice in blood.

When I first saw the city, I stared in awe at the enormous stone ruins and towering pyramids, among the largest structures ever built by human hands, yet even in these modern times they call the Victorian era, no one lives here. Local villagers who come to an archaeological dig to work will not even spend the night. They call the main thoroughfare—a broad boulevard often wider than a football field, which runs over a mile through the heart of the city of stone and ghosts—the Avenue of the Dead.

Now I fear I know why.

Smothered by darkness, I stand in a netherworld beneath the ancient ruins, unable to move a muscle. Strange figures dart by as clawlike hands grope my body, pulling at my clothes. Try as I might, I don’t have the strength to push them off. They dig into my flesh and I cry out in pain.

A sticky, smelly hand covers my mouth, suppressing any chance for help.

Chattery voices surround me, speaking in a strange tongue, as I’m being moved deeper and deeper into a void I fear I will never escape. Cold, damp, unstirred air embraces me. I feel as if I’m being prepared for sacrifice and there’s nothing I can do.

As a murky black mist swirls around, my whole being feels as if it’s suspended in a violent, twisting maelstrom. I have no control of my body—it is attached to me but not mine.

The hand leaves my mouth, but I don’t scream. Something inside me warns not to let them know my fear.

The chatty voices disappear like ghosts fleeing in the night.

My eyes hurt as my vision starts to come back, blurred at first, then darting around as a wild animal trapped and looking for a way of escape. But there is no escape. I’m in a chamber that’s coffin-black without a speck of light, not even the twinkle of a star. I can’t see or hear anything.

I’m alone. Afraid to move.

I have been brought from the tepid night outside to a cool place that smells like earth.
A cave.
I’m sure of it. I don’t dare take a step because I don’t know what’s around me. It’s too dark to see anything. Not even my hand in front of my face. Am I at the edge of a cliff? Where would a step take me?

I feel as if I’m suspended in midair, but my feet tell me I’m on solid ground. I put my hands out to see if I can feel a wall, but I feel nothing. I wait, my heart in my throat, my mouth dry, breathing shallowly, in a place darker than night and quieter than a crypt.

Now I understand why the Aztecs feared the city built before the time of Christ and why the local villagers still do.

Stupid!
I had been warned that, like Egypt, ancient Mexico has a history of mystery and magic, that its pantheon of violent gods were the most bloodthirsty of any that ever existed, possessing a bloodlust satisfied only by their worshipers ripping out hearts and draining the blood of sacrifice victims to satisfy the covenant with the gods.

Am I to be the next sacrifice to their gods?

My insistence on foolishly delving into ancient secrets that have been buried for more than a millennium have brought me to this place that must be underneath the city. The ancients who built Teotihuacán created colossal towering edifices aboveground, taller than a skyscraper, so there’s no reason to believe they didn’t put tunnels under their city. And this is where I’ve been taken.

But the blood covenant with the gods, shape-changing from man to beast to create terrifying creatures of the night, and barbaric cannibalism are just a very small part of the dangers I am about to face; besides the ancient evils, there is a darkness of heart that permits even murder by “civilized” men who lust for ancient treasure.

To understand how I got into haunted caverns below a stone city that once rivaled ancient Rome in size and sophistication, I need to explain what took me from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Mexico against the advice of just about everyone close and dear to me.

My name is Nellie Bly. That’s not my birth name, of course. I was christened Elizabeth Cochran but had to change my name when I got a job as a newspaper reporter, because reporting the news is not considered a ladylike career for a respectable young woman.

Not that I am in any way embarrassed by working in a profession with men who are considered uncouth by bankers and tradesmen. To the contrary, my own “profession” before a bit of audacious penmanship got me a reporting job was that of a factory girl. And I was lucky to work in a factory and earn my bread, because we live in an age where the only “careers” for “well-bred young women” are to be sent to finishing school by well-heeled parents so they can learn how to manage a house and please a husband.

Of course, if you were raised by a widowed mother along with a houseful of siblings, a woman’s options, beyond the marriage bed, would be to obtain a job working in a factory at half the wages paid the man working next to you, or selling your body on the street until the Big Pox or some other noxious disease blessed you with an early death.

Getting a desk with the “boys” in the newsroom, those vulgar, mouthy denizens of the free press who dug out and reported the news, brought me five dollars a week, more money than I was making laboring long hours in a factory in a grimy city that has so many places of manufacture, you can get black lung from the sooty air.

I felt like Cinderella when Mr. Madden, the editor of
The Pittsburgh Dispatch,
told me that he wanted me to come to work at the paper after reading my letter to the paper objecting to an article that said women were fit only to be the helpmates of men.

Unfortunately, I soon learned that newspapers are not financed by what reporters write, but by the ads placed by businesses. An article in which I pointed out the sad state of workers—men and women—who toiled long hours for pay so low that they could hardly keep food on the table raised the ire of advertisers who employed such workers! I was immediately assigned to the society page to report on weddings, teas, and the doings of people with more money than the good sense the good Lord gave them.

BOOK: No Job for a Lady
5.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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