8:35 a.m. on Sunday April 15, 1906, San Francisco, California
Abrigal Crowley awoke in her comfortable bed in the master bedroom of her home on Nob Hill. She had lived here for the last twelve years. Ever since she had returned from China. She had spent five years traveling all through Eastern Asia, something that normal white women did not do. But she was not normal by any stretch of the imagination.
There in Asia, she had studied all matter of mystical arts. From the native Fakirs of India, monks of the Himalaya Mountains in Tibet, the shamans of the Mongols and the Shaolin temples of China, she had visited and learned.
Not just the mystical arts, but the spiritual guidance or way of the warriors.
Setting up she pulled the bell cord next to her bed to let the kitchen know she was up and to bring her breakfast. Though it was a bright morning shining through her bedroom window she had a feeling of unease. There was a quiver in her guts; her wards gave no sign of dangers. But somewhere deep inside her she felt danger in the air.
The knock at her door brought her attention back from her deep introspective thoughts.
"Enter", she called from her bed.
The door was opened and a warming cart was pushed in. She had gotten spoiled since settling here in San Francisco. The meal was delicious, much more so than one should expect of a simple breakfast. The coffee was almost magical in its invigorating aroma.
Abrigal leaned back against the headboard of her bed and sipped her coffee; trying to plan her day. There was a performance that evening at the Tenderloin theatre that she had been invited to attend. She had no just causes to cancel, so she would attend.
As the sun set, Abrigal exited her home and started to enter the touring automobile that awaited her. A sudden movement attracted her attention and she looked up. A flock of seagulls was passing over head. Strange, they were headed inland.
It was another phenomenon that made no sense. As they drove past the Central Pacific Railroad station Abrigal leaned forward and told the driver to stop. She sat there observing the people pushing into the station.
Grizzli the All Seeing, as she proclaimed herself, and her whole household were entering the station with a mass of luggage. Talk about strange. Grizzli had lived in San Francisco for the last twenty-five years. She never left! There that was Harry Thornton, a very skill diviner and his man were also entering the station. Abrigal thought about her observation for a short time not coming to any conclusion.
"James, continue to the theatre." She told the driver.
In the theatre, she met up with her hosts, the Andrews family, who had invited her to join them in their box. Her mind kept drifting from the conversation, it was not very interesting, to the empty seats in the theatre. Empty seats on a Sunday evening could be expected, however, it was the particular seats that were empty that made it important. Six boxes were empty; all six belonged to families' renowned for their precognitive abilities.
The seats for the masses were normal in attendance. In looking out over the audience she noted those of the mystical arts that were in attendance. None were very skilled at divinations. She turned to John Andrews.
"John, have you heard anything in the wind?"
He turned to face her and his face paled, "I was hoping that you might know what was happening. I have been noticing something was up for the last couple of days; but what I have no idea. I went to see Harry Thornton and he had already locked up and he and his man were gone."
"I saw him as I was coming to the theatre; they were entering the CPRR station. Grizzli and her whole household were there also. I have been feeling strange for a couple of days, but this morning I almost sent you a note canceling tonight. The last time I felt like this I got caught aboard a ship in the China Sea in the middle of a Typhoon. Something is up and it's big."
"I was afraid of that. Well I'm not taking a chance I think I will go visit some friends in Arizona."
"Shhh! John the play is about to start." His wife said.
Abrigal could not remember one detail about the play when she got home later. Every free animal she spotted on the street was head inland to the east.
The next morning when her staff began their day, Abrigal was sitting in her dining room. Her housekeeper got the word from one of the maids and rushed into the room to see if something was wrong.
"Heather, bring all the staff into the room; I wish to speak to them, also some coffee and a couple of pastries."
"Ma'am is there a problem?"
"Yes there is Heather; I am going to be closing up the house. I will be returning to Virginia to see if any of my family is living. This will be a permanent relocation. Please gather the staff and let me explain once only."
Nibbling on a pastry and sipping her coffee, Abrigal looked her staff over. Most of them had been with her ever since she had opened her house. She did not even know the names of three of the maids, nor the pot boy who worked for the cook. However, that was normal for her time and place. She did not even pay them, she paid the Housekeeper and she passed out the staff's pay.
"I am sorry to inform all of you that I will be closing up the house permanently. All of you will be paid for the remaining month. In fact, you will receive a bonus for the extra duty of packing up all of my keepsakes in a very short time. By Tuesday morning, I will have all the boxes picked up and shipped to the East Coast."
"Heather, I want you to write up glowing recommendations for all of them. I will sign them and personally give them to each of you before I leave. I will also advise all of you to go visit some relatives outside the Bay area for a week or two."
"Cook, nothing fancy from here on out, just good filling food for all of us. Jane, you know my clothes, pull my traveling clothes out press up one sturdy walking gown and pack the rest."
"Ma'am, you can't travel alone! It's not decent!" The housekeeper stated with authority.
"Heather, that is so funny, I traveled all over Asia for years with nobody but myself. I will have no problem traveling across America. Now time is wasting, let's get moving!"
Abrigal left the house and entered her automobile. It was one of the modern connivances that she appreciated. After traveling all over the world, she had ridden elephants, oxen, horses, mules, camels and even reindeers. The automobile was one of the greatest modes of transportation ever conceived.
"James, take me to Dodson Transportation Company, on River Street."
"James, how do you like the automobile?"
"It's a great piece of machinery, Ma'am."
"I have noticed how well you take care of it. I will not have time to find it another owner, so if you wish I will give it to you as a parting gift. In appreciation of all the services you have performed over the years."
"Ma'am! It is too much!"
"No, only if you do not want it. Each of my staff will receive a gift of equal value. Now if you rather, I will give you an equivalent amount in money."
"NO! I will gladly accept. This a great automobile, if nothing else comes along I can go into business with it as a taxi service."
"Yes, that might work, but like I said earlier go visit some relatives outside the Bay area. You might try Sacramento; all those politicians up there would just love to tour around in something like this."
Abrigal entered the Transportation company offices and noticed the bustle as people were coming and going in all directions.
She stood in front of a counter for a few minutes being ignored by all the clerks. She raised her walking stick and then brought it down hard on the wood floor the sound echoed back and forth through the whole building. When Abrigal wanted to attract attention she had learned a long time ago how to do it!
"Ma'am? May I help you?" Asked a clerk with his nose upturned at a women being in this place.
"Yes you can, I need to ship something from my home on Nob Hill to Richmond Virginia. The shipment must be out of the city by Tuesday night."
"How much does it weigh?"
Abrigal thought for a minute visualizing everything in boxes. "I would estimate about 100 crates with a total weight of approximately three tons. I am not taking everything."
"I will insure each crate for $20,000 that is two million in insurance total for the whole shipment."
The bustle came to an abrupt halt as every head turned to look at her.
"Two—two million dollars?" Stuttered the flabbergasted clerk.
"Yes that is correct. How much will that be?"
"One moment please Ma'am!" He turned to look at a man sitting on an elevated deck behind a desk. He was rising slowly as he stared at her. Then he began to move faster toward the front counter.
"Now ma'am, how can I help you?"
"I am leaving San Francisco permanently and I must ship some of my household goods to my home in Virginia. These are rare curios and sentimental objects that are not replaceable. They should not be more than 100 crates and I would insure each crate for $20,000 for a total of two million dollars. They must be on board and transported out of the city by Tuesday evening."
"Does the method of transportation matter? Do you desire train or will ship transportation be acceptable."
"Interesting question, I had not thought about that as an option. Trains would be faster; but ships would be cheaper, am I not correct?"
"You are ma'am."
"Money is not important so let's ship by train."
He pulled schedules and insurance rate tables out of drawers and then looked at a chalk board hanging on a wall. Then he did some calculations. Looking at her he asked, "How soon can we start picking up? You must make sure you have an authorized agent on hand to sign the insurance forms as they go on the wagons."
"Everything will be ready by 8 o'clock in the morning."
He once again looked at the chalk board, "Joe, mark five wagons out at 8 in the morning; two men to a wagon."
"Ma'am, two tons in one hundred separate crates with fragile handling from San Francisco to Richmond Virginia will be three hundred and sixty-eight dollars. Between me and you, I would tip each of the men loading the wagons on that last trip. Just a little more insurance; if you know what I mean."
"I do, that is normal. I have traveled around the world and failure to do so was a sure way of not having your luggage arrives."
Abrigal opened her hand bag and removed a purse from which she removed eighteen double eagle gold pieces then eight more dollars in silver. She stacked it on the counter, and waited as the man filled out all the paperwork and gave her a receipt for the money.
The house was bedlam, Abrigal could barely find a place to sit down and wait for the wagons. She and Jane had finished her bedroom this morning and James had moved everything but her portmanteau into the front rooms. Her walking staff was also there leaning against the wall next to the door.
There were packed boxes and crates all over the house. Abrigal had taken the shipping forms needed for the insurance home from the Transportation Company and she and Heather had filled them out as each package had been sealed. Now the last of the boxes were being moved to the front room to await the wagons taking them to the train station.
Abrigal had opened her bag and stacked the envelopes on the table in front of her. The whole staff stood in front of her. Heather laid the letters of recommendation out; and placed a pen and ink bottle beside them. As Heather called each of their names, that person stepped forward and Abrigal pulled that letter out and read it, finally she signed it.
All of them were going to miss being here. Most of them had worked here for over seven years a few for longer. Abrigal handed each of them an envelope with over two thousand dollars and the letter. She stood and hugged each of the females, and took the men by the hand and gave it a firm shake. The Pot boy she hugged also and whispered into his ear, "Leave San Francisco tonight don't wait!"
When they were all paid; she then dismissed them to leave as they wanted. Turning to Heather she said, "Heather anything that is left is yours."
A knock at the front door brought Heather to the front room. She led ten men into the dining room where Abrigal handed the man in charge all the fill out forms. The supervisor started in immediately directing his workers to move the biggest and heaviest crates out first so they would be on the bottom when placed in the wagons.
"Ma'am. This is going to take maybe three trips to get all of this to the train station. Will someone be here till we get the last load?"
Abrigal looked around, "How late will the last wagon leave here?"
"Ma'am I'm thinking, after five this afternoon. It's a lot of work on the mules taking loads like this up and down those hills."
"James can you wait and run me to the train?"
"Of course ma'am!"
"Then I will be here."
"Thank you ma'am, let's go boys, move it!"
For the rest of the day Abrigal sat there feeling the pressure of danger building. June finally left about 2 o'clock with tears in her eyes. Heather made another pot of coffee and poured some into a cheap cup that was used in the kitchen for the staff.
Five o'clock came but the wagons had not returned yet. Abrigal was not worried; she made sure that the foreman had seen her set out ten little coin bags on the table.
Abrigal sat thinking about her trip to Virginia. It had been years since she had been there; she had packed her bags and left when she was twenty-three. Her brother was killed when she was thirteen in the Battle of Antietam. A year later her father was crippled at the first battle at Gettysburg.
She had stayed at home to help her mother while her father laid there in bed staring at the wall. She had been too young and unpracticed to use magic to help heal him. So for nine years, she supported her mother as she waited on her father. Then her mother weakened and Abrigal had two invalids to care for. They had barely scraped by. Her cousins came by every so often and dropped some supplies.
Then her father turned over one night and died. Her mother cried for three days and then passed in her sleep. Abrigal was finally free.
Three days after the funeral she signed the place over to her cousins. Now it was thirty years later and she was going home. Home? She really questioned that. San Francisco had been her home; the home of her heart for the last twelve years. She had not shed a tear when she left Virginia, but she would when she boarded the train leaving San Francisco.
She lifted her watch that hung from a gold chain out of the watch pocket on her coat and checked the time. I was now 6:30 p.m. she wondered what was holding up the teamsters.
It was 6:55 when she heard the wagons coming up the street; when they made the turn onto the street in front of her house she saw that there were only four wagons; one of which was completely different then the other three. The foremen sat there on the bench for a minute just looking at her as if thinking "What the hell will I tell her?"