Foreword: Ted Sayles
When Book Two of the Finding Billy Battles trilogy ended, the year was 1910 and my great-grandfather, William Fitzroy Raglan Battles, was living in Chicago with his wife Katharina and his daughter, Anna Marie. Billy and Katharina had recently celebrated their eleventh anniversary, and Anna Marie, Billy’s daughter from his first marriage, was a twenty-year-old student at Northwestern University in Evanston.
Billy and Katharina met in 1894 aboard the SS China headed for the “Mysterious East.” Both were despondent strangers fleeing tragedy. Billy’s first wife, Mallie, had passed away during an influenza epidemic six months before, leaving Billy with a four-year-old daughter and a broken heart.
The Baroness Katharina von Schreiber was a recent widow, but unlike Billy’s wife, her husband did not die of illness. She had, in fact, killed him. However, Katharina was no murderer. There were mitigating circumstances, which Katharina managed to explain convincingly to Billy.
After an uncertain beginning, their relationship grew and intensified, tempered in the crucible of calamity and danger. Trouble and misfortune shadowed them everywhere.
However, the five years between 1905 and 1910 were, without a doubt, the most tranquil and nonviolent in their chaotic lives. Billy was an editor at the Chicago Record-Herald, and Katharina was a successful author with a focus on international current events. Life was pleasant and comfortable, and for the first time in years, Billy and Katharina appeared to have left trouble far behind them.
That was about to change. As I examined the journals and other materials great-grandfather Battles left me, it was evident that by 1914 adversity and misfortune were about to reappear in the lives of Billy and Katharina.
But more important, Billy himself was about to vanish, and he wouldn’t resurface for several years. For his friends and family, it was an enduring and impenetrable mystery. Eventually, everyone assumed Billy was dead. He wasn’t.
But where did he go? What happened to him? Why did he disappear? I found the answers to those questions and several others in great-grandfather Battles’ journals.
What follows is Billy’s improbable and astonishing story in his own words.
Ted Sayles, Kansas City, Mo.
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