Experience the adventures of the eighteenth century as The Fur-Lined Crypt takes you into the harsh and unforgiving lifestyle of the men who spent their very souls in the early North American fur trade. These men of grit and courage unveiled the mysteries of the hinterland and its uncharted rivers, forests, and plains, thus opening the way for civilization and settlement of a new continent. The Hudson’s Bay Company and its various forts and trading centers provided a vital service and offered a unique entrance into the continent’s heartland. Frequently it was their employees who were among the first Europeans to discover and enter what was not always a friendly land. These fur traders surveyed, mapped rivers, and discovered previously unknown peoples. In the end, they lifted the veil of distance and found ways to overcome the inhospitable climate that hid the land’s wealth and potential. They forged the requisite alliances with the native peoples who, perhaps unwittingly, provided the fuel that kindled the commerce of the day. A window into this lawless society reveals cruelty mixed with compassion, love overcoming hate, and survival in a dangerous world. This historically accurate chronicle threads an intriguing yarn of human perseverance through the pain and anguish of living in isolation far from loved ones.
At last the tight knot in the pit of his bowel began to unravel. His breath came easier as he gulped the mild breeze that floated in from the open sea. Here in the Thames Estuary, beyond the reach of the law, Timothy felt safe for the first time in almost a fortnight. It was May 21, 1750 and there was reason to relax. Sadly, that couldn’t begin to mask the desperate feelings of defeat and terrible loneliness that had overtaken his normally cheerful demeanor. Now heart sick and nearly blinded by tears, Timothy could barely make out England, which was silently slipping from view over the rear gunwale of Prince Rupert I, one of several company supply ships. It wasn’t likely to be a happy crossing, but barring a shipwreck or some other catastrophic event, the stormy North Atlantic would be his home for at least eleven weeks. Gravesend’s disappearance from the quarterdeck spelled the end of his past life. A new one was beginning. Directly ahead, Timothy could see a small vessel tacking into the brackish gray water of the estuary. For a fleeting moment he seriously considered jumping ship in the vain hope that he could swim back to the city, thereby reversing all of his recent decisions. The consequence of such an endeavor was, of course, much too horrible to contemplate, and the desperate scheme was quickly dismissed. Like it or not, having recently signed on for a five-year stint with the Hudson’s Bay Company, he was in fact on his way to Rupert’s Land, the northern reaches of the New World. As a fugitive from the law, there was little doubt that the assignment could last even longer. But having used an alias, it seemed unwise to argue or raise the matter for discussion with the monocled and somewhat prissy registration clerk at the Hudson’s Bay Company office on Fenchurch Street. That part of the agreement was never really debated since it appeared that all candidates seeking work in North America’s frozen tundra were obliged to accept a similar five-year sentence. It mattered little since Timothy hadn’t contemplated that he would find himself in this particular situation. Initially there had been some optimism regarding a kinder, less primitive exit from England. That didn’t happen and here he was. To a large extent the Hudson’s Bay Company was selected simply because of its proximity to Timothy’s bank. Just eleven hectic, fear-filled days had lapsed since the nightmare began with the discovery of the ghoulish chaos at Weir and Thompson, Chartered Accountants. Having joined the firm at the age of twelve and now, being, a junior apprentice, Timothy had enjoyed a dozen years of continuous employment and there was good reason to believe that his contribution was of growing importance to the partnership. Indeed, it was even possible to fanaticize seeing the name “Timothy Morton” alongside the other gilded names that appeared in the front office window. There was after all a history of excellent progress. His loyalty and continuing development had lead to the assignment of several small clients for which he had sole responsibility. He had cherished these arrangements, especially the relationship with Marsden Hats, one of Oxford’s leading haberdasheries. In fact, with a recent raise of four pounds per year, his courage had been bolstered to the point of asking Mr. Marsden for his daughter Fay’s hand in marriage. Loving her as he did, it was particularly painful to know that she would never learn of his innocence. With the risk of being captured by the police, it had been much to dangerous to call on his fiancée, and there was every reason to believe that she, like many others, believed that he was a murderer. Knowing this, and despite the tremendous temptation, leaving Fay without comment was probably the kindest thing that Timothy could have done for the one person in the world that he truly loved. Yes, it was true. Timothy Morton was the only suspect in the murder of Mr. Lawrence Weir, the senior partner of Weir and Thompson, Chartered Accountants. And is it any wonder that he was under suspicion? Less than two weeks had passed since Timothy had reported for work early, just as he always did. He was planning to finish a small but troublesome inventory audit and was feeling particularly pleased with himself. Having one of only three keys to the establishment, and with both partners scheduled to be in Windsor, he was anticipating a pleasant and relatively quiet day at the office. Approaching the Farringdon Street façade, Timothy experienced a mild twinge of concern as he noted that the front door was ajar—it was clear that something was amiss. Timothy could hardly believe that anyone would be interested in burglarizing a sterile accounting office. He also wondered if this was a result of his careless handling of the lock the night before. While he may have been preoccupied with wedding plans and the happy thoughts of a visit with Fay, leaving the door unlocked would have been unthinkable. Reflecting back to the previous night, he clearly remembered securing the door, and hearing the large bolt closing on the heavy oak frame that surrounded the front entrance. Entering the office foyer, his worst fears were to be realized. There they were, six blue-coated bobbies conversing in Mr. Weir’s open-door office. But wait! Things were even more sinister. Lying in a pool of blood was Mr. Weir with a cricket bat protruding from his bludgeoned skull. It was a gruesome scene with Mr. Weir’s grotesque, blood-smeared face showing both surprise and horror as his still-open eyes stared into eternity. For Timothy, the shock intensified when he noticed that his name was clearly inscribed on the butt end of the bloody, leather wrapped handle. The weapon was a souvenir representing London’s newest sport. It had been given to him by Mr. Sommers, a recent arrival from India, a client and founding member of the new Hambledon-Marylebone Cricket Club. Hearing the intrusion of Timothy’s arrival, the closest and most portly of the bobbies spun around. “Who might you be?” he asked. “And what is your business here?” Thinking quickly and having in mind the name on the bat, Timothy blurted out, “I am here to meet with Timothy Morton and expect to pick up some documents.” “Not likely,” replied the policeman. “He has just murdered his boss and we hardly expect that he will be in today. By the way, what did you say your name was?” With hardly a chance to think, Timothy responded, “Stanley Jones.” He had just seen that name on a chalk board, advertising a new play at the Drury Lane Theater. “Get out of here,” scolded the cop. “We have a lot of things to clear up, but should you happen to see Morton, don’t tell him that we are on to him.” Once outside and back on the street the realization of what had just happened hit Timothy like an avalanche. In the absence of other evidence, the police were quick to put the blame on him. Without a meaningful alibi it was a frightening situation. Bending over to retie a loose lace on his leather breeches, Timothy could feel the sobs welling up in his throat. With them came the whispered summary of the situation. “I am a fugitive, and while innocent, the law is looking for me. I dare not even return to my flat. In fact, I need to stay well clear of the Bermondsey district since I am sure to be recognized.” Moving north well into the Finsbury district, some dozen meandering blocks from the office and the scene of the murder, Timothy found himself in an unfamiliar Bull and Finch Pub. Here in the subdued light, he was temporarily safe and there was time to think. While still a bit early for a drink, a pint of ale was ordered from the stooped pub master who was otherwise busy cleaning up from the previous night’s activities. Standing by the rail and starring over the polished marble bar, it was possible to rationalize that the whole situation was nothing more than a bad dream. Unfortunately, such was not the case.
Born in 1934, Richard Jensen grew up on a modest prairie farm in southern Alberta, Canada. Having retired from a career in the petroleum industry, Richard now resides in Scottsdale, Arizona. He is also the author of Don’t Drink the Water, a self-published biography.