The Button Maker Murders - Prelude
My name is Burton Latimer and this is my confession, freely given.
To begin with, I would like to say that being human makes you stupid.
Please don’t interrupt. I know you are busy enforcing what you are pleased to refer to as the law. And I know that you think there is never enough time for your labours. Well, humans invented time. We can always make more. We do, in fact. Life after life, we keep coming back and making more time. And each time we come back, we forget that we’ve been here before. We think there is only the one life and never enough time.
That’s how stupid humans get.
Anyway, you must listen, for I won’t write it down. That would deprive me of an audience and I dearly love an audience, even at this late date. You may send someone in to record. I believe you call them stenographers. You think they are saving you time with their shorthand and special machines. Ha, ha, ha. How you love a machine. But still you must listen, and to listen you must stay. Leave the room and I will say no more. Plus all I have said I will recant and you may all go hang. Along with me, yes. Hang me or turn me loose, it's all one. There’s no punishment you could devise that would be worse than what awaits me either way.
Now, we must consider buttons, since I was a button maker in my previous life. You suspect me of being a foreigner with designs to spread terror, but I am only foreign in being from a fairly distant past, and I was ever a peaceable man then, a simple fellow who loved his trade. Even now, I remember it with unreasonable attachment. There is so much to buttons. They hold things together in a world forever falling apart. That is their prime function and overwhelming attraction. You see it brings tears to my eyes? We button our garments and so distance ourselves from the naked ape and make possible the attainment of a blessed civility.
My main business was with commoners, of course. I came from among them, almost a beggar myself, and pewter was cheap and soft, easy to shape with inexpensive tools. The drawback was the shanks were prone to break. That bothered me. The addition of tin as an alloy would strengthen them, but that was a discovery slow to penetrate to the frontier settlement that was the Halifax of those early days. Slowly, as I could afford it, I developed a line for the wealthier citizens, who could afford more durable materials. And who had the leisure to appreciate beauty.
As I learned to cater to that appreciation, I attained the sensitivity of an artist. I cannot describe the rush of pleasure I felt at applying a treble orange gilding. I am not a handsome man, but I believe my enthusiasm enhanced my countenance to a surprising degree. It must have been so. Otherwise, how would a nobleman like Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, ever have deigned to admit me to his company, invite me to his soirees, treat me to his most intimate confidences? Touch my arm? Whisper in my ear? Eh? Eh?
Thus it was through my buttons that I became attached to royalty, and through my attachment to royalty produced the finest buttons of my life.
We were standing by the heart-shaped pond that was a gift from the Prince to his mistress, Madame de Saint-Laurent, who herself was sitting on a marble bench at the water’s edge, peering in at her reflection among the fallen leaves.
“Ah,” said the Prince. “When she is sad, she is even more lovely. No happy woman could compare. I must remember her just as she is today. Will you assist me, Burton?”
“Of course I will, sir,” I replied ever so eagerly. “But how?”
“Why, with buttons,” he said. “Whatever else? A special set of buttons. With her likeness. With her sadness. Can you do that? Can you capture my lady’s inimitably charming sadness on a button?”
He was not speaking terribly softly, with any intent that I should be the only one to hear. Madame de Saint-Laurent heard him easily too. As she regarded us, smiling, a tear graced her cheek. Then she arose and walked on through the garden alone.
I delivered the Prince's commemorative buttons to him the day they departed for England. The buttons were not gilt but solid gold and quite large. They had to be to accommodate Madame’s image. They would adorn the red uniform coat he would wear for his first meeting with his father, King George the Third, upon his return to the mother country.
“He detests her, you know,” the Prince had confided in me. “He sent me here hoping to keep us apart.”
“We can never marry,” Madame for her part had confided, as she modelled for me during my adorning of the buttons. “Yet I will never leave him till he marries someone else, someone whose child may ascend to the throne.”
He did marry, eventually. The child of that marriage became Queen Victoria.
There was a child for me too. He was delivered of my wife Gretta the day after the Prince left. He would have borne the name Edward, after the prince, but escaped the honour by dying before his first hour was up. More than three months premature, he was exceedingly small. I was allowed the liberty of holding his little body in the palm of my hand. Gretta died the next day, of no cause the physician could determine but grief. A grief that would not let her breathe. So that, in effect, my wife strangled herself.
The fault for both deaths, I assure you, was mine. The loss of my royal companion had plunged me in gloom. I was drunk several nights in a row. Smashed things in Gretta’s presence. Derided our personal lack of nobility. Turned a blind eye to her tears of a commoner. Drove her to an early labour in a dream coach fit only for kings.
That is all for today. All I can manage. You may return tomorrow, early as you please. You will be bringing me my breakfast, I suppose. Or shall I be allowed out to obtain it for myself?
I thought not.
Oh my goodness. Could not stop reading. Excellent book. Jim, I can’t wait to read more! Well done, dear friend!
Hi Jim, thanks for the pre-view, I really enjoyed it! You have got me all excited to read your 1st book. I have just ordered it this week looking forward to reading it when it arrives!
Hi Linda. Button Maker Murders is the sequel to The Flaw in the Fabric, which is available through Amazon. Button Maker Murders is new. What I'm doing is letting my friends and followers see it before publication. There will be one more book after this one. The trilogy will have the collective name A Travellers Guide for Lost Souls.
Jim more please........
I'm am intrigued .....where may I purchase the book?
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