Excerpt

The sexual outlaw sat alone in her room, considering her options. She had already been arrested in Philadelphia, Chicago, and Washington, DC. Here in New York, she had endured three months in the workhouse on Blackwell’s Island, an ordeal that almost killed her. Now, at forty-five years old, she had been convicted once again. The next morning, she was due to appear in court to face sentencing for her crime. But she wasn’t about to let that happen. Her things were all packed—her books, some clothes, and her most valuable possession: a well-used Remington typewriter. She could always leave, making her way to California, or perhaps back to London where she had escaped once before, safely out of the reach of the agents of the American Inquisition who would not rest until she was silenced for good. She had been a fugitive before; she knew how to elude the police, the private detectives, and the men from the asylum. But what good would it do?

She thought about the offenses for which she had been convicted. She was a danger to public morals, they said. A threat to the nation’s youth. Not in her right mind. But they didn’t understand. She had a gospel to preach—a message of beauty, joy, and spiritual enlightenment. So much pain and suffering could be eased, so much ignorance and bitterness could be avoided, if only she were allowed to share her teachings with the world. The world badly needed them, of that there was no doubt.

She looked at her image in the mirror: her long blond hair primly done up in a bun; her alabaster complexion, determined brow, and clear blue eyes. She was certain that her motives were pure. She stood for moral correctness, right living, and clear thinking—never hedonistic indulgence or uncontrolled passion. Hundreds had benefited from her instruction. She had been praised by doctors and clergymen alike, all of whom attested to the value of her writings. But because her subject was sex—only within marriage, of course—she was accused of being obscene, lascivious, lewd, and dirty, if not insane.

She knew what she had to do. They must not be allowed to silence her. Her precious manuscripts had already been sent away for safekeeping, where no one—not even her mother—would be able to find and destroy them. Someday, when the American public was ready, they would be published. But, in the meantime, she would make her case to the people, and ensure that her side of the story would be told. For the last time, she rolled a sheet of paper into her trusty Remington and began to type.

As the morning dawned, Ida Craddock carefully disconnected the hose from her gas stove and opened the jet. Lying back on her bed, she took the razor she had prepared and drew it across her wrist, just to be sure. As her awareness began to fade, she was not afraid, for she could already see her spirit companions gathering to meet her on the other side of the Borderland. Soon she would be free...

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