Promo: Unlike Any Other by Edward Londergan
Today I'm thrilled to share an intriguing excerpt from Unlike Any Other, a historical novel by Edward Londergan, an author with a focus on the American revolutionary war.
The title is currently on blog tour with The Coffee Pot Book Club, so make sure to check out all the other stops on this tour!
Unlike Any Other
“The Honorable, the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Superior Court of Judicature, Court of Assize of the State of Massachusetts Bay. Oyez! Oyez! Oyez! All persons having business before the Honorable, the Superior Court are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. All rise!”
The five justices, clad in black flowing robes and white powdered wigs, led by Chief Justice Cushing as the presiding officer of the court, walked into the room and onto the platform. They sat in large wood and leather chairs at a long table with an ample supply of paper, ink, and quills for each justice. My heart sank when I saw Mr. Foster. I thought of the Bay Psalm Book he’d given me on my wedding day. He sat, stone-faced, staring at me.
Above the witness box was a sounding board, a large, ornamented piece of wood to amplify the sound of the witness’s voices so they could be heard as well as possible. Near us, a large mirror was placed so that the judges and jury could watch our expressions as we listened to the witnesses.
Then there was silence as the justices looked at the jury, the lawyers, clerks, and reporter and those in attendance, which included many provincial and local government officials.
Chief Justice Cushing cleared his throat, adjusted his spectacles, and addressed the crowd that overflowed out to the street. “Bailiff, close the doors.” Ezra, Buchanan, and Brooks stood there, looking ahead and not moving as if they were made of stone. I turned to watch as the bailiff made his way to the front door of the meeting house and, after some pushing and shoving, got all the people who did not have seats out of the building before making his way back to the front of the room.
“We will have order today. Any outbursts will not be tolerated,” Cushing said. He turned to the court clerk. “Read the indictment.” The clerk stood and spoke in a loud voice so all could hear:
“At the Superior Court of Judicature, Court of Assize, begun and held at Worcester, within and for the County of Worcester, on Tuesday the twenty-fourth of April, in the year of our Lord seventeen hundred and seventy-eight. The Jurors for the Government and People of Massachusetts Bay, in New England, upon their oath present that William Brooks, resident at Charlestown, in Middlesex County, Laborer, James Buchanan, of the same Charlestown, Laborer, and Ezra Ross, of Ipswich, in the County of Essex, Laborer, on the first day of March last past, feloniously, wilfully and with malice aforethought, assaulted Joshua Spooner, of Brookfield and that William Brooks, with his right fist, struck Joshua Spooner to the ground then, with both his hands and feet, struck him in and upon his back, head, stomach, sides and throat, resulting in several mortal bruises, of which Joshua Spooner instantly died. And that James Buchanan and Ezra Ross then and there were present, aiding, assisting, and abetting William Brooks, to the felony and murder to be done and committed. That they feloniously, willfully, and of malice aforethought, killed Joshua Spooner. And that Bathsheba Spooner, of Brookfield, in the County of Worcester, widow, late wife of the said Joshua Spooner, not having God before her eyes, but being seduced by the instigation of the Devil, did incite, move, abet, counsel and procure the accused in the murder of Joshua Spooner.”
He placed the paper on the table and looked at the justices.
Cushing addressed the jury. “You must return a verdict of either guilty or not guilty after hearing all of the testimony and weighing all of the evidence. We will now proceed with opening statements. Mr. Paine.”
Robert Treat Paine was not a good-looking man, having an angular face with a long nose, mouth like a slit, bushy eyebrows, and dark, hard, resolute eyes. Dressed in a tan waistcoat and breeches, white stockings, black shoes with gold buckles, and dove gray coat, he was the image of a well-to-do man of power and prestige. He stood and picked up a sheaf of papers from the table.
“Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice and Associate Justices. If it may please the Court.” He moved to the side of the table and stood squarely facing the jury.
“The men standing before you,” he said, stabbing an index finger at the defendants, “signed a confession, a lengthy, detailed document specifying their part in the crime, admitting their guilt. They stated,” he continued, looking at the paper in his hand, then reading from it: “‘William Brooks went out and stood within the small gate leading into the kitchen, and as Mr. Spooner came past him, he knocked him down with his hand. Mr. Spooner strove to speak when down, but Brooks beat him with a club, took him by the throat, and partly strangled him. Ross and Buchanan came out, and Ross took Mr. Spooner’s watch out and handed it to Buchanan. I, Buchanan, pulled off Mr. Spooner’s shoes, and Brooks and Ross then took him up and put him into the well head first.’”
He set the paper down. “We will hear from fourteen witnesses who will testify as to the accused being at Joshua Spooner’s residence, and give testimony of discussions between the accused with the goal of murdering Mr. Spooner. We will also explain the events which transpired that led to this terrible incident that deprived a well-known and well-respected member of not only Brookfield but of the state, a man who dedicated himself to his business and family, of his life.”
He put his hands behind his back as he paced. “That Joshua Spooner was murdered is not in question. He was killed in a most despicable and cowardly manner. The defendants Brooks, Buchanan, and Ross attacked and killed him on the night of the first of March, beating him most severely about the head, neck, and torso. Brooks strangled him until unconscious then kicked him in the head and chest causing gashes and cuts from which his blood flowed, leaking into the ground near the well into which Brooks and Ross stuffed his body. Imagine being beaten to that point where your life is ebbing away only to be shoved into a well and drowned because you are incapable of being able to remove yourself from the well. The enormity of the crime cannot be dismissed. It was all at the urging and encouragement of his wife and mother of his children, Bathsheba Ruggles Spooner, who had an utter aversion to her husband and made plans to have him killed. She was the conspirator who set the entire incident in motion.”
I shivered at hearing his words, and envisioned Joshua’s cold, lifeless body in front of me.
He rubbed his hands together while looking down, then raised his head and approached the jury box. “She planned his murder for many months, cajoling and attempting to seduce some men into carrying it out while promising to pay the defendants large sums of money and valuable belongings of her deceased husband.”
He looked at me for a moment. “She is a woman without a soul.” A gasp ran through those seated, all on the edges of the benches. “She cannot have a soul to commit such a heinous crime. She is a seducer of souls.”
I stayed composed, trying to show no sign of emotion, merely taking in what he was saying. I brushed a lock of hair from my face and watched Paine do what he could to convince the jury to find me guilty. “We will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that these four conspired and acted to cause the death of Joshua Spooner.” He looked at the judges. “Your Honors.” Justice Cushing looked at Mr. Lincoln.
“No opening statement, Your Honor.”
I was aghast. Trying to do his best apparently meant abandoning me from the outset.
The trailer for Unlike Any Other