I'm trying something unusual, at least for me - it might be dead common otherwise, and giving this story a paranormal spin. There's a parallel story set in modern Reading (or at least modern enough, I was last there a couple of years ago). It is shorter, alternates with the historical story, and somewhat parallels it.
This is the first part of the parallel story.
I need to come up with a better title. At 17500 +- words it's a little soon to worry about a cover.
Reading, Today 1.Jane looked over at the new trainee barrister, Ben Child. He seemed a nice enough young man, albeit a bit quiet for her tastes. He'd been seeing practice as a public defender in the Reading Courts for the last few weeks. They'd work together for a few hours sorting out cases for the next few days, then he would take off to whatever lodging he hired, while she went out and enjoyed herself.
She asked him, “Mr. Child?”
He looked up and said, “What Ms. Rodgers? I'm about done-in for the day.”
“I was wondering what you were planning to do tonight. It's Friday you know.”
“Go home, read a book, watch some telly and sleep. Like most nights.”
“Sounds dreadful. Would you like to come to a party?”
“With me and my boyfriend. He's a graduate student at the university. I'm meeting him there this evening, and then we're off to a party for one of the D.Phil. students who has just defended. Lots of booze, chatter and maybe some dancing.”
“Sounds fun. Is he fine with that?”
“I'll call him and see, but I can't imagine why not.”
She pulled out her cell and after a few minutes conversation told him, “No problem. He'll even see if he can get that standoff-ish post-doc to come along. Set the two of you up for a date.”
“Frances or Frankie, something like that. Always at her bench. She makes the graduate students look lazy.”
Ben thought for a few moments. Since he'd left law school parties had been few. Those he was invited to tended to be staid civilized things with the terrifying senior barristers, their awful wives, and dreadful daughters. Even meeting an eligible woman socially, let alone romancing one, had been difficult. He said, “Thank you, it's been a long while, and I really appreciate it.”
“By the way, is she pretty?”
“Never met her, but Tom likes her. Do you want to get changed out of your suit?”
Ben looked down, by now his “lawyer's uniform” of a gray suit, serious tie, and shiny leather shoes was second nature to him. He said, “I suppose I should. I'd look a sight, dressed like this at a student party, wouldn't I?”
“Yes you would. Meet you by the Oracle bus lane in a half an hour. Unless you need longer?”
“See you there.”
They took the 21 bus from the Oracle to the university, then Jane led him to the Lyle building where the school of biological sciences is based. They went into the lobby where she said, “Mr. Child, we'll have to wait here, but Tom should be down soon.”
“Ms. Rodgers, please call me Ben, we're out of the office.”
“Good, you should call me Jane.”
The noise of two people having a heated discussion drew their attention. One, a young woman, was saying, “Tom, I don't want to come to the party with you and Jane. I have work to do tonight, and I especially don't want to be 'set up' with a-” she stopped mid-sentence when she saw Ben.
Jane stepped forward and introduced her guest, “I'd like to present my friend, Ben Child. He's a junior barrister working as a public defender at the Hexagon. Ben this is?”
Tom stepped in and said, “Frances Kendrick, post-doc extraordinaire, our professor in training. Dr. Kendrick, aren't you going to say hello?”
After a moment to catch her breath she squeaked out, “You look familiar. Do I know you?”
Ben paused, considering his reply. He'd expected a personable young woman, pleasant company for certain, but not this. She was beautiful, someone who haunted his dreams. “I, I don't know. You look familiar to me too. I did my law degree in London, where you ever there?”
Frances laughed, “London, of course, but it's a big city.”
“I mean King's College.”
“I don't think so.” She smiled at him and said, “Doesn't matter. Jane dragooned you for this party too?”
“She didn't have to argue very hard. It was reading and telly otherwise.”
“You could have said that better, but I understand.” She turned to Tom and said, “Tom, I think I will change my plans for tonight. Where is this party?”
“Betty's flat, out towards Whitley. Why don't we pick up a bite first?”