The Laird's Fair Lady
Maureen MacLeod smiled stiffly but politely as Juliet Bouchard, the chairwoman of one of Boston's oldest and most respected charities, proudly outlined her family lineage.
"My parents always told me we were Mayflower descendents," she proudly boasted, "but until I hired a genealogist, I never dreamed my roots went back to the Battle of Hastings. Imagine my surprise to learn one of my ancestors fought beside William the Conqueror!"
Alison Sachs, treasurer of the charity, had her own story to tell.
"My brother and I hired a genealogist after our father died to research our family tree. We learned our family goes back to the Dutch colony at New Amsterdam. We didn't even know we were Dutch; we thought my father was Swedish!"
Maureen, the organization's secretary, routinely lunched with the two other women after their monthly meetings and had always felt on par with them both socially and financially. But, as the daughter of a second generation Boston firefighter, she lacked the impressive pedigree of her lunch companions.
"Have you ever had your family tree drawn up?" Alison asked Maureen.
"No," she replied, wishing the topic would change.
"You really ought to," Juliet suggested. "I just asked my genealogist to check into my husband's family. His father was French, and I can't wait to see if any Bouchards served under Napoleon."
"Speaking of Napoleons," Maureen said with a laugh, "do either of you want to order dessert?"
"I know I shouldn't," Alison replied, "but that cheesecake looks absolutely scrumptious."
Maureen smiled. Her attempt to steer the conversation away from family histories had been successful.
Later that evening Maureen met her husband for dinner at a restaurant in the Back Bay area of Boston. James MacLeod, known to his friends as Jim, a self-made billionaire, arrived twenty minutes late.
"I'm sorry, darling," he apologized, giving his wife a perfunctory kiss on the cheek. "My meeting ran late, and then I couldn't find a taxi."
Normally, Maureen would have pouted and behaved like a spoiled child who couldn't have her way, but on this particular evening, she wanted something from her husband.
Playing the part of the sweet, understanding wife, she smiled and replied, "That's all right, dear. I didn't mind waiting."
Jim was surprised by her response. His wife--whom he considered a high-maintenance woman--was normally an impatient person who hated to be kept waiting, even for a short period of time.
"Would you care for a drink?" he asked when he saw a waiter approaching their table.
"Just a glass of wine for me."
After the order was placed and their drinks delivered, Maureen took a sip of her wine, turned toward her husband and asked, "How much do you know about your family?"
"What do you mean?"
He thought it an odd question, especially since his wife had never shown any interest in his early life.
"I had lunch with Juliet Bouchard and Alison Sachs today," she explained. "Both of them hired genealogists to research their family history. Juliet is a Mayflower descendant whose family goes back to the Norman invasion of England, and Alison's ancestors were among the original Dutch settlers of New York."
"Isn't it? Of course, my family isn't so illustrious. My ancestors were farmers in Ireland who came to America after World War I ended. But I can't help wondering about the MacLeods."
Jim chuckled and shook his head.
"I hate to disappoint you, but my ancestors didn't come over on the Mayflower."
"I know that, but maybe you'll find something just as exciting in your family tree."
"I doubt it, but if it will amuse you to go searching for my roots, then by all means hire a genealogist. Just don't get upset with me if you find out my ancestors were farmers, too."
Having received her husband's blessing on her latest project, Maureen finished her wine and ate her meal in good spirits.
* * *
Maureen met with Hoyt Tipton, Allison's genealogist, a week later. She gave him the names of Jim's parents and his paternal grandparents.
"My husband believes his grandfather grew up in Puritan Falls," she explained, "but he doesn't know if he was born there or even if he was born in this country."
"I'm not surprised," Tipton said. "Many people don't know much about their families. My own wife was surprised to discover that, although her great-great-grandfather was a blacksmith in New Jersey, she was distantly related to three United States presidents, Thomas Edison, the Vanderbilt family, a Confederate general, the Fondas and Bruce Springsteen."
Maureen's eyes widened. How she wished there were similar surprises in her family tree. She'd be happy to be a third cousin ten times removed to even one president!
"I'll begin looking through the old census records and see what I can find," Hoyt explained. "I ought to be able to discover the name of the first MacLeod who immigrated to the U.S. there. I'll call you in a few days and let you know what I've found."
Three days later, Tipton phoned with good news.
"I found your MacLeod immigrant: Andrew MacLeod arrived in America in 1688 from Edinburgh, Scotland."
"1688? That's before the American Revolution!"
"Yes, your husband's ancestor was an early colonial settler."
Maureen's pulse raced with excitement. She couldn't wait to tell the news to Juliet Bouchard and Alison Sachs at their next monthly meeting.
"I found an old family history online," Hoyt continued. "Apparently, Andrew was from Stirlingshire. When he was nineteen, he went to Edinburgh where he boarded a ship for America."
"I'm sure his reasons were either political or religious. At that time there was a lot of conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Britain. James II, a staunch Catholic, succeeded his Protestant brother, Charles II, in 1685. In 1688 there was a revolution, and James was eventually replaced by William and Mary, his Protestant son-in-law and daughter."
"So Andrew was a Catholic?"
"He might have been, but my guess is that he was a Protestant. While James was king the Protestants were persecuted, and William and Mary didn't rule until 1689. Also, when Andrew left Scotland, he first headed for New York. A storm forced the ship to land on the Jersey shore. Andrew married a Dutch girl and settled in New Jersey. One of his sons gradually made his way north until his great-great-grandson settled in Puritan Falls around the time of the War of Independence."
"I can't wait to tell my husband about this family! He'll be so thrilled!"
"I've compiled a chart of the family tree with all the names and dates. I can send it over to you along with a list of resources if you or your husband would like to look further into the family's history in Scotland."
"That would be wonderful!" Maureen exclaimed, already trying to decide how she could talk Jim into taking a vacation to Scotland.
* * *
When Jim saw his favorite meal laid out on the dining room table, he knew his wife wanted something. And when she walked down the stairs looking like a supermodel, he knew it would be expensive. It amused him to see to what lengths Maureen went in order to get what she wanted, especially since during the years they were married he never once refused her anything. If she wanted something, be it a designer dress, a sports car or a new house, all she had to do was ask.
"I see you had the cook make my favorite, mandarin duck. What's the occasion?"
"There's no occasion. I just thought you might like it."
Jim tried to hide his smile when Maureen walked to the bar and made him a drink. He wondered if she would wait until after the meal to pop the question he knew she was dying to ask. It wasn't until Maureen brought out dessert that she finally approached the subject.
"How long has it been since we've had a real vacation?"
Jim thought a moment.
"Must be about two years since we went to Tahiti."
"Two years," his wife groaned. "Has it been that long?"
"Is this about that Mediterranean cruise you've been hinting at for the past six months?"
"No. I've forgotten all about the cruise."
Jim raised his eyebrow; it wasn't like Maureen to forget about anything she wanted.
"We've been to so many islands. I thought we ought to trying something different for a change."
"Scotland. Wouldn't it be fun to travel the same streets that your ancestors once walked along?"
"You've got to be kidding!"
"No. There's not much more Hoyt can learn here, but we could hire a genealogist in Scotland who can dig deeper into the past."
"Then go ahead and hire one. Who's stopping you?"
"But I want to travel there and see those places for myself."
"Let me guess. Juliet Bouchard and her husband are going to England to track down Juliet's Mayflower ancestors."
"Yes," Maureen admitted.
"Ah ha! So this is just another way of keeping up with the Joneses or, in this case, the Bouchards."
"So what if it is? I don't want them looking down their aristocratic noses at the poor Irish girl."
"I'd hardly call you poor. All modesty aside, we've got more money than the Bouchards and Sachses combined."
"And what good is it if we can't enjoy ourselves once in a while?"
There it is! he thought as he watched the corners of his wife's mouth droop. There's that pout!
That particular facial expression had captivated him when they first met, but it was beginning to wear thin after their years of marriage.
The dinner and the pout were only the beginning. By the time the couple went to bed after the late-night news, Maureen had tried every weapon in her arsenal of female wiles. When Jim pointed the remote at the television and pressed the power button, he gave in at last.
"All right," he sighed with resignation. "We'll go to Scotland."
* * *
After landing in Edinburgh Airport, Jim MacLeod hired a car to take him and his wife to their hotel in the Old Town district of the city. After the couple checked into their hotel and freshened up, Maureen suggested they take a tour of the city before dinner.
"We just got here," her husband objected.
"But we're supposed to meet with Duncan Lundy tomorrow," she argued. "We might not have the time to see the city before we're whisked off to your ancestral home."
"We'll be here for a week. I'm sure our itinerary can accommodate ...."
The pout again. How could a look he once thought so adorable have become so irritating?
"All right," he said wearily. "We'll do whatever you want to do."
The hotel concierge arranged a private tour for the wealthy Americans. The guide took them to Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and the ruins of Holyrood Abbey. As they rode along the Royal Mile, he regaled them with colorful tales of Scotland's history.
Maureen couldn't resist bragging of her husband's heritage.
"Jim's ancestor left Edinburgh in 1688 to go to America."
"Edinburgh had a population of about thirty thousand back then and was quite a bustling city."
"That many people in this small an area?" Maureen asked.
"Yes. In the 1600s they began adding more floors onto existing buildings. There was the one main road going down the crest of the ridge, and off that, on either side, were narrow alleyways called wynds or closes."
When the tour came to an end, the MacLeods had dinner at their hotel. Afterward, Jim announced he was going to bed.
"But I'm not in the least bit tired," Maureen complained.
"That's because our bodies are still on Massachusetts time. I suggest we both take melatonin and try to get some sleep." Just as the corners of his wife's mouth started to droop, he added, "Don't forget. We're going to meet Duncan Lundy bright and early in the morning. You don't want to be late. After all, he may tell us that I'm a descendant of William Wallace or even Robert the Bruce!"
The corners of Maureen's mouth instantly lifted, and her husband headed to bed, thankful that he had sidestepped another pout.
* * *
Despite going to bed early the previous night, Maureen had difficulty waking up the next morning. Jim, on the other hand, was used to fighting jetlag and was up and dressed by seven.
"I've ordered room service," he declared cheerfully as his wife groggily stumbled toward the shower. "Nothing too big, just a pot of coffee, orange juice, eggs and toast."
"Who cares about food? I just want to go back to sleep."
Jim looked at his watch.
"Sorry, but Lundy will be here in a little over an hour."
A hot shower and three cups of coffee later, Maureen was ready to greet her guest.
Lundy, a gray-haired, bearded man with a thick Scottish accent, brought with him a briefcase and a laptop computer.
"Have you found anything?" Maureen asked eagerly, as the older man booted up his computer.
"Aye, that I have. So far, I've traced your family back to the 1640s, to your namesake, James MacLeod, or Seumas MacLeòid in Gaelic."
"Who was he?"
"One of the wealthiest and most powerful lairds in all of Scotland at that time. He was a landowner and a Royalist, who supported Charles I."
Lundy opened a file containing the MacLeod family tree. While Maureen was eager to see the results of Duncan's research, her husband seemed lost in thought. He didn't even glance in the genealogist's direction.
"Are these his wives?" Maureen asked, pointing to two pink boxes alongside the blue one bearing James MacLeod's name.
"Yes. I found a record of his first marriage dated 1629 and a death notice for his wife dated 1643. Then in 1647 he married again. That marriage produced a son, Malcolm. It was Malcolm's son, Andrew, who emigrated to America."
"Is it possible to go back any further than James?"
"I would say yes, but I can't be positive. It's often difficult to track down the old church records since some have been destroyed. But, if you'd like, I'll continue searching."
Both Maureen and Duncan turned toward Jim and waited for his response.
"Oh, yes, please do," he replied, finally emerging from his dazed state.
After the genealogist left, Maureen pounced on her husband.
"What's wrong? You were acting like a zombie. You could have at least pretended to be interested in what Duncan had to say."
"I was interested," Jim explained, "but then .... I don't know. I must be coming down with something. One minute I was feeling fine and the next it was as though I stepped inside a freezer. I still have chills."
Maureen put her palm on her husband's forehead.
"You do feel clammy, and your face is flushed. Would you like to see a doctor?"
"No, I think I'll just take some aspirins and lie down for a while."
His wife, who was now wide awake, did not want to spend the rest of the morning in the hotel room.
"Would you mind if I did a little more sightseeing while you're resting?"
"No, go ahead and have fun."
He reached into his pants for his wallet and then handed over a generous supply of British pounds.
"Here, take this in case you want to do some shopping while you're out."
After his wife left, Jim fell asleep for close to an hour. When he woke, he headed toward the bathroom for a drink of water. The reflection he saw in the mirror above the vanity, although terrifying, fascinated him. The face was that of a young woman, her delicate features framed by a cascade of reddish golden hair. At one time her fair countenance must have captivated people by its beauty, but its perfection was marred by tumor-like growths on the woman's neck and black sores on her face. The green eyes, dulled with pain, met his. Their message was clear: help me.
Jim's stomach lurched and he vomited in the toilet. When he returned to the sink, the image of the woman was gone.
* * *
"I'm back," Maureen said when she returned to the hotel and saw her husband sitting on the couch. "Are you feeling any better?"
"No. I've called a cab to take me to the hospital."
"Hospital? Are you feeling that bad?"
Maureen would have questioned her husband further, but the cab arrived and she and Jim were taken to the hospital.
"That's strange," Jim said as the cab travelled down the Royal Mile. "All of a sudden I feel fine."
"You look better, too," his wife agreed, "but you're still going to the hospital. If you're seeing things that aren't there, you need to have a doctor examine you. We're not taking any chances with your health."
After three days of tests, Jim was released from the hospital with a clean bill of health. Both the internist and the neurologist assured him there was nothing to worry about.
The MacLeods left the hospital and hired a car to drive along the coast. After a pleasant day of sightseeing, they had dinner at an inn overlooking the North Sea.
"You know, the more I see of Scotland, the more I like it," Jim said. "Maybe once I retire, we can buy a home here."
"And leave Boston?" his wife asked, horrified that she would have to leave the city she was born in after all the climbing she had done to reach her social position.
"No, there's no reason we can't own a second home 'across the pond'--as the British say."
"We'll see," Maureen said unenthusiastically. "You're still a young man, years away from retirement."
"It's not as though I have to wait to collect social security benefits. I'm filthy rich. I could retire now if I wanted to."
Although Maureen was proud of her husband's Scottish heritage, she had no desire to live in Scotland. London, perhaps, or, better yet, Paris, but not Scotland.
After the delicious dinner and the moonlit drive back to the hotel, both the MacLeods were feeling romantic. While his wife headed for the bathroom, Jim phoned room service to send up a bottle of champagne. Feeling a chill in the air, he checked the thermostat on the heater.
"You're cold?" Maureen asked, when she stepped out of the bathroom.
"Maybe I'll warm up after a hot shower."
But when he walked into the bathroom and again saw the face of the pitiful young woman in the mirror, he called for his wife.
"What do you see?" he asked, not taking his eyes off the reflection.
"See?" she asked with confusion. "I see you in the mirror."
"Are you sure? Look harder."
"It's you. Why? What do you see?"
"A woman who is obviously quite ill."
"You're having another hallucination. You have to go back to the hospital."
"So they can run more tests? It won't do any good. They were all negative."
"But there must be some reason you're seeing things that aren't there."
"How do you know she's not there?" he asked, with his gaze still focused on the mirror. "Maybe there's a reason I can see her and you can't."
* * *
"Yes, sir," the concierge informed Jim. "There have been a few reports of unusual sightings in the past. This is an old building, dating back to the early eighteenth century. It has a long history, and some people have claimed it's haunted."
"Has anyone ever seen a sickly young woman in our suite?"
"I don't know any specifics, but if you're interested, there's a man on Queensferry Road who conducts local ghost tours. He's written a book on paranormal activity in the city. Maybe he can help you."
Ironically, Maureen, who had been the one to instigate the trip to Edinburgh to research the MacLeod family tree, had no desire to learn the truth of the mysterious visions her husband had seen. She had what she wanted: a distinguished pedigree about which she could brag--even if the ancestors technically belonged to her husband and not to her.
"Why waste our time going to one of those ghost chasers?" she whined when Jim phoned the author and scheduled an appointment to meet him. "We're going to return to the states in a few days, why don't we enjoy the rest of our time in Scotland?"
"Seeing that poor woman in the mirror gave me quite a shock. I want to understand what the experience represents and why it happened."
"It means you have an overactive imagination."
"I did not imagine her. Now, I know nothing at all about the paranormal, but this writer, Hamish Christie, claims to have studied the subject for many years. I want to at least hear what he has to say."
"Well, I'm not going," Maureen stubbornly refused.
This time not even the pout that was forming on her full lips swayed her husband. He was determined to meet with Christie whether his wife went along or not.
* * *
"There has been quite a bit of paranormal activity in that old hotel," the author told Jim when they met later that afternoon. "Given its age and Edinburgh's history, it's no wonder."
"Do you know of any specific ghost sightings?" Jim asked.
"There have been about a dozen accounts made by either hotel employees or guests."
"Has anyone ever reported seeing a beautiful young woman with tumors on her neck and black sores on her face?"
"Not to my knowledge. The documented ghosts seem to have originated from more modern eras. It sounds to me like you're describing someone stricken with the Black Death."
"You mean the bubonic plague?" Jim had, of course, heard of the terrible epidemic that had nearly decimated Europe, but he had not immediately recognized the symptoms of the deadly illness. "Exactly when did the plague spread to this area?"
"The disease first hit Scotland in the middle of the fourteenth century. There were later outbreaks including one in 1643 and one that hit Edinburgh in 1568."
"The woman I saw couldn't have suffered from those epidemics. The hotel isn't that old," Jim reasoned.
"No, but she might have once lived or died near the site of the existing building."
Jim sighed and ran his hands through his hair.
"So you don't have any idea of the identity of the woman I saw in the mirror?"
"I'm sorry I can't be of more help, but I'm just an investigator who writes about other people's experiences. If you want to learn about the woman, you might want to consider hiring a psychic. Oh, I know you probably think they're all charlatans--and many of them are--but I know of a woman who is the real thing. She's a professor of Scottish history, right here in Edinburgh. Why don't you see if she'd be willing to help you?"
* * *
Maureen, who had objected to her husband seeing the writer, was even more vocal against his calling in a psychic.
"What's gotten into you?" she shouted. "You've always been a level-headed businessman, and now you're seeing ghosts and running off to consult paranormal quacks. I'm calling the airline and having them get us an earlier flight. The sooner we go back to Boston, the sooner you can get all this nonsense out of your
"No," Jim argued. "If you want to go back, then go ahead, but I'm staying right here in Edinburgh until I get some answers or until I run out of options."
True to her word, Maureen took her cell phone out of her purse, called the airline and booked an earlier flight for herself. Then, without speaking to her husband, she began packing her bags for the trip home.
* * *
Professor Fiona Campbell agreed to meet with Jim at the hotel, but because of constraints on her time, she had only a few hours to spare. The time she was free coincided with his previously scheduled appointment with Duncan Lundy, the genealogist. Thankfully, neither objected to the other's presence at the meeting.
After introductions were made, Jim described his encounter with what he believed to be the ghost of a woman suffering the symptoms of the Black Death. The two men then remained silent while Fiona Campbell explored the rooms in the hotel suite.
"Did you see anything?" Jim asked anxiously when she stepped out of the bathroom.
"No, but I do feel a presence here, not just in the bathroom but in all the rooms of the suite."
"I don't understand why I'm the only one who has seen this woman."
"Have you had other psychic experiences in your life?" Fiona asked.
"No, not a one. I never even believed in the paranormal until I came here."
"Then it's possible you and this woman share some bond," the psychic suggested.
"Well, my ancestors came from Scotland. Perhaps one of them died during the plague."
"I haven't come across any MacLeods that died of the Black Death," Lundy said. "But I have learned more about your namesake, Seumas MacLeòid. I told you during our previous meeting that his first wife died in 1643 and that he remarried in 1647. I've since located a record of another marriage, one that took place shortly after the first wife died."
"In 1643?" the professor asked. "That would have been during the time of the plaque."
"So his first wife could have died during the epidemic," Jim surmised.
"No," Lundy answered. "The church records specifically say she died during childbirth. She died, and the baby, a girl, survived."
"If he married a third time in 1647, what happened to his second wife? When did she die?"
"I've yet to find a record of her death."
"That's not surprising," Fiona said, "considering not only was there an outbreak of plague but Scotland was also on the brink of civil war."
"Were you able to learn anything at all about his second wife?"
"Only her name: Màiri, or Mary in English."
Fiona closed her eyes, sensing a presence in the room.
"Mary .... yes, that's her name."
"Is she my ancestor?" Jim asked.
"No," the psychic replied, "she is not of your blood."
"Then why does she appear to me? What does she want?"
"If she is the Mary that married James MacLeod in 1643, she wouldn't be a blood relative of yours," Lundy pointed out. "Your connection to him is through his son Malcolm, the child of his third wife."
"Is she my ancestor's second wife?" Jim asked the psychic.
It was several moments before Fiona answered.
"Yes, but I sense she has no tender feelings for him. When his name is mentioned, I sense only anger and fear."
"Is there a reason why she haunts this hotel?"
"She died here, not in the hotel but on this spot back in the seventeenth century."
"What was here then?"
"I don't know," Fiona said. "But I might be able to find the answer in the university library."
* * *
The following day, Fiona Campbell postponed her classes to meet with Jim.
"Can we go somewhere where I get a cup of coffee?" she asked. "I've been up most of the night reading."
They met in the hotel dining room where they both ordered a late breakfast.
"What have you found out?" Jim asked, pouring two cups of coffee from the pot.
"Nothing concrete," Fiona replied, as she put on her glasses and opened a notebook she'd taken out of her handbag, "but I've formulated a theory that seems to be supported by the facts."
"Let's hear it."
"Have you ever heard of Mary King's Close?"
"It sounds familiar. I think the tour guide mentioned something about it."
"It was originally a close, or actually a number of them combined as archaeologists later discovered. Anyway, the close was partially demolished and buried under the Royal Exchange. Legends began to circulate that when the plague hit Edinburgh in 1644, the close was sealed at both ends to prevent the spread of the disease. Those people unlucky enough to be inside the close when it was sealed starved to death. It was reopened in 2003 and has since become a popular tourist attraction here in Edinburgh."
"Sounds like a fun place to visit."
"It's just an old legend, and most people don't believe it, much the same as most people don't believe a sea monster lives in Loch Ness."
"It's an interesting story, but what has it to do with Mary?"
"I've come across an old journal, written in 1644 just before the outbreak of the plague. It was written by a young doctor named Cailean MacDhòmhnaill in old Gaelic, which translates to Colin MacDonald in English. MacDonald wrote of his growing affection for an exceedingly fair young woman, who, unfortunately, had recently wed a wealthy laird. He refers to the woman only by her initial: M."
"And you think this woman is Mary."
"Yes, I do. The doctor goes on to say that the laird's first wife had only recently died in childbirth and that she left him with a daughter. The laird--whom MacDonald does not name in his journal--is described as a cruel, greedy man who thinks only of increasing his wealth and power. Apparently, he only married Mary so she could give him sons."
"I wonder how much of MacDonald's assessment of James MacLeod is influenced by his affection for MacLeod's wife. I've seen what Mary looks like, and even though she was suffering from the plague, she was a beautiful woman."
"Granted, maybe your ancestor wasn't the monster MacDonald makes him out to be," Fiona Campbell conceded. "But apparently Mary, if she is MacDonald's M, was not in love with her husband. In fact, she fell in love with Colin MacDonald. In the final pages of his journal, he writes that he has seen several patients with symptoms of the plague. He admits that he has convinced M to leave her husband and flee Edinburgh with him. His last words were that he and M were going to head up into the Highlands to escape her husband. Once the danger of the plague was past, they would go to England and from there head to the New World, where they would be far beyond the laird's reach."
"But if this M left Edinburgh, how can she be the woman I see in the bathroom mirror?"
"Wait; there's more," Fiona said, flipping the page of her notebook. "I read an account written by a merchant who travelled between Glasgow and Edinburgh. Whenever business brought him here, he stayed in the same room, on a street he referred to as Carbrey Close. Naturally, he avoided the city during the plague, but when he eventually returned to Edinburgh, the close was gone. He asked a business associate what had happened to it and was told that an angry laird had walled his wife and lover up inside the close."
"And your theory is that the legend surrounding Mary King's Close was based on truth. Only it was the Carbrey Close that was walled up, and it wasn't done to protect the city from the plague but to punish an unfaithful wife."
"Who most likely had the plague, judging by what you saw of Mary. She might very well have caught the disease from Colin, who discovered the symptoms in his patients."
"Does this merchant name the laird, the wife or the lover by name?"
"Why do I sense there is a but to come?"
"Because there is. The merchant doesn't name names, but ... I was able to locate some very old maps of Edinburgh, and I located a Cairbre Close."
The professor took a dramatic pause.
"It was located on the very spot where your hotel was built."
* * *
Jim gave up the idea of returning to Boston and purchased a house not far from where Professor Fiona Campbell lived. He smiled as he imagined the pout on his soon-to-be ex-wife's face when she learned the news.
The wealthy American businessman then spent the next eight months getting approvals from various government agencies to excavate the courtyard outside the hotel in hopes of unearthing what was once Cairbre Close.
It wasn't until sixteen months after the permits were all in order and the archaeological team broke ground that the skeletal remains of Màiri MacLeòid and Cailean MacDhòmhnaill were discovered. Fiona MacLeod grasped the hand of her Scottish-American husband while the bones were carefully removed.
"They died in each other's arms," she said, blinking back her tears.
After the final photographs were taken and the video crew left the site, Jim suggested to his wife that the go out and celebrate.
"This has been quite a day! You've proved your theory was true, and now you and your archeologist friend can write a book about the tragedy that occurred at Cairbre Close."
"And you? What do you want to celebrate?"
"You mean besides the fact that I'm going to be a father?" He laughed and then replied in all seriousness, "That I was able to atone for my ancestor's cruelty and that the beautiful woman I once saw in a hotel mirror can finally rest in peace."
This story was inspired by an actual legend about plague victims being sealed inside Edinburgh's Mary King's Close. It was also inspired by my own search to find my ancestry. Much to my surprise, I discovered that my father's family could be traced back to the 1624 settlers of the New Netherlands colony. I discovered I shared at least one (sometimes more) direct ancestors with Martin Van Buren, Theodore Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, writer Albert Payson Terhune, Henry Fonda (and his famous family), the Vanderbilts, Anderson Cooper, Michael Douglas (through his mother's family), Confederate General James Longstreet, and Bruce Springsteen [not that I've ever met any of these people, nor am I likely to].
Salem as the Cat in the Hat (the Scottish version).