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Innocent

De
272 pages
After the orphanage she lives in is destroyed by fire, Betty, an innocent and trusting teen, takes a job as a maid in Kingston, Ontario. Welcomed into the household of the wealthy Remington clan, Betty makes friends with the staff at the house and soon discovers that her mother had also been a maid there, and that her father is in a nearby jail, convicted of murdering her mother. When she meets her father, she is taken aback by his claims of innocence, and she decides to try to uncover the truth about her mother’s murder and her father’s conviction. A friendly young policeman assists her in her investigation (and shows an interest in Betty that is more romantic than professional). But all is not well in the Remington household, and someone doesn’t want Betty to learn the truth.
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I  ont ont WALTERSI ERIC WALTERS FPO
In early June 1964, the Benevolent Home for Necessitous Girls burns to the ground, and its vulnerable residents are thrust out into the world. The orphans, who know no other home, find their lives changed in an instant. Arrangements are made for the youngest residents, but the seven oldest girls are sent on their way with little more than a clue or two to their pasts and the hope of learning about the families they have never known.On their own for the first time in their lives, they are about to experience the world in ways they never imagined…
ont I  ERIC WALTERS
Copyright ©2015Eric Walters
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Walters, Eric,1957–, author Innocent / Eric Walters. (Secrets)
Issued in print, electronic and audio disc formats. isbn 9781459806658(pbk.).—isbn 9781459806665(pdf ).— isbn 9781459806672(epub).—isbn 9781459810945(audio disc)
I. Title. II. Series: Secrets (Victoria, B.C.) ps8595.a598i55 2015jc813'.54 c20159017351 c2015901736x c20159017378
First published in the United States,2015 Library of Congress Control Number:2015935524
Summary: In thisyanovel, Betty starts to investigate her mother’s murder and uncovers a sinister connection to the wealthy family she works for.
Orca Book Publishers gratefully acknowledges the support for its publishing programs provided by the following agencies: the Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund and the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Province of British Columbia through the BC Arts Council and the Book Publishing Tax Credit.
Cover design by Teresa Bubela Cover images by Dreamstime.com and Shutterstock Author photo by Sofia Kinachtchouk
orca book publishers www.orcabook.com
For Anita
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The sun was beating down on me so brightly thatI had to keep my eyes tightly closed. It feltsogood. I was like a cat basking in the sun, drinking in the warmth, letting it soak in and fill me up. I could lie here all day. Soft sand under me, the sound of the ocean in my ears… all I needed was for the breeze to be a little bit stronger. The warmth was building and becoming too hot. The smell of the ocean was changing. Had somebody started a bonfire on the beach? Why would they do that on such a beautiful, sunny day? The smell of the fire got stronger and stronger until it wasn’t just in my nose. I could almost taste the smoke and—I sat bolt upright in bed. The beach was gone, but the smell remained. I looked around, trying to make sense of my surround-ings. It was almost pitch black, but in the dim light coming from the window, I could make out thin lines of smoke. Smoke…that meant there was a fire!
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I tried to jump out of bed, but my feet got tangled in the covers and I tumbled to the floor, the wind knocked out of me. Frantically I kicked at the blankets, terrified and desperate to get untangled. I struggled free and scrambled on all fours, bumping into the night table, reaching up for the lamp. I grabbed it and pushed the button, but nothing happened. I pushed the button again and again, but it wasn’t working! I pulled myself to my feet. The smoke was getting thicker. I stumbled over to Toni’s bed. “Toni, Toni! Wake up, get up!” She didn’t budge. What was wrong? Without thinking, I reached down and slapped her across the face. Her eyes shot open. Even in the dim light, I could see a look of complete confusion and terror on her face. “There’s a fire!” I screamed. “Something is on fire!” She didn’t move. She looked completely stunned. “There’s smoke, a fire,” I stammered. I had to make her understand. Suddenly the look of confusion changed to panic. She was like a wild animal clutching at me, flailing her arms. I stepped back, afraid she was going to hit me. Instead, she grabbed my nightgown and held on. “We have to get out,” she yelled. She was still holding on to my nightgown as I pulled her to her feet, out the door and into the hall. There was more smoke out there, much more. Toni froze.
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“We have to make sureeverybodygets out! Go—pound on doors!” I said. Her eyes were still panic-filled, but she nodded her head and let go of my nightgown. “Fire! Fire! Fire!” Joe, the cook, was yelling from some-where down below. “Get Cady, get Malou…make sure they’re up!” I screamed. Toni stood there, unmoving, as if she couldn’t even command her feet to walk. “Go!” I pushed her hard, propelling her down the hall as I started in the other direction. There was banging behind me as she hammered on a door and called out the girls’ names. I reached the second door and was about to pound on it when it popped open and Sara and Dot tumbled out, bumping me into the wall. We stared at each other, speechless. I opened my mouth to say something when Joe called out again, “Fire, fire, fire!” “We have to get out,” Dot yelled. “Yes, yes, we have to get everybody out. Go wake up Tess—she has to get out.” “She’s up…she’s out. She didn’t come home last night,” Sara said. My mind raced, glad that she was safe, wondering why she hadn’t come home, where she was and— Toni, Malou and Cady ran down the hall and pushed the three of us ahead of them. We stumbled down the stairs, bare feet pounding against the wood. It was almost pitch dark in the windowless stairwell, but we had walked
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up and down the stairs so many times over the years that we didn’t need light to find our way. We hit the second floor together. The smell of smoke was strong, but I still couldn’t see any fire. The door to the little-girls’ dormitory was already open, and Joe and Miss Webster appeared. In Joe’s arms were two of the littlest girls. Miss Webster held two more by their hands. Trailing behind Joe were the others, moving two by two and holding hands the way we’d practiced in fire drills. If only this were a drill. The girls had fear in their eyes; some were whimpering, and some had started to cry. “Quick now, ladies!” Joe called out. “Toni, Betty, all of you big girls go down—show them the way! That’s right. Good girls!” He made it sound like this really wasn’t anything more than a drill. As a group, we went down the steps. The sound of our feet thumping down the worn stairs was all we could hear. We reached the bottom, spread out and lined the front-hall walls. Like magic, Tess appeared, already holding the hand of one of the little girls. Unlike us, she was already dressed. Dot threw her arms around Tess as the little girls, led by Joe as if he were the Pied Piper, came down the stairs. We allowed them to pass. Through the dining hall and to the door they marched. When Miss Webster appeared at the end of the line, we followed her, our feet thundering as we crossed the verandah and ran onto the lawn. Our bare feet sank into the wet grass, and a rush of cold, fresh air entered my lungs.
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Suddenly, Mrs. Hazelton, our matron, appeared. She was in her nightgown as well, standing with Joe and Miss Webster and the Little Ones. She called out for everybody to be calm, to move away from the building. As always, she was in charge, and we followed her orders. Outside, the full moon and the stars bathed the lawn in light, and I could see clearly. I kept moving away from the building, as if it were in pursuit, and I could see that we had to get farther away. Finally, with the full expanse of the lawn and the burning house behind us, we stopped. The Little Ones now started to sob. More fully awake, they now knew enough to be scared. A pair of the girls— Debbie and Carol—broke ranks and rushed to me. “We’re all right now,” I said to the girls. I swept Debbie up, and she wrapped her arms around my neck. Carol pressed against me. I knew the Little Ones needed to be comforted, but having them against me gave comfort to me as well. “It’s going to be all right,” I said. I wasn’t sure if I was trying to reassure them or me. All of the other girls were spread out, scattered in groups of two or three, some standing, and some slumped to the ground. All were staring back at the house. Toni came to my side. She had two of the Little Ones clinging to her as well. There was a chill in the air that made it seem more like early April than nearly summer. None of this seemed real. It was as if I’d woken up from a dream to find myself in a nightmare. I wanted to pinch myself and wake up from
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