Episode 1 - "Just Like Jackie"
by Camille LaGuire
Not terribly sick. She'd simply eaten something she shouldn't have, and the worst part was over. She was worn out and flat on her back, when he had awakened her by brushing her hair back.
"Mary?" he said. "I've got to go out for a bit. Peter needs some help."
"Mmmm?" she said, or something very like it.
"Mrs. Drew will look after you. I'll be back in a couple of days."
That was it. No indication whatsoever that she might never see him again. It was just like Jackie.
It was also just like him to go off on an errand and forget to come home for days on end. Or, it used to be like him. He hadn't done that lately. Still, she didn't worry too much until Peter Simple showed up at her door, looking sick and guilty.
"Jackie's been arrested for treason," he said.
That made no sense at all. None. Sure, she had dreaded those words for years, but Acton had won the war. It was a free nation, and Jackie was a patriot. Much as he annoyed people, there wasn't anyone in Acton likely to accuse him of treason. It made no sense.
Then Peter added the words to explain it.
"Down in the peninsula."
That was loyalist territory, the only district in Acton still under royal rule. The people there were so rabidly anti-revolutionary, that even the new queen could hardly restrain them. Even so, her treaties should protect an Actonian even there.
But Jackie Alwyn -- known widely as Jackie the Freedom -- was famous for his inability to keep his mouth shut, especially around those who disagreed with him.
Mary wasn't at all the kind of woman given to fainting, but considering her recent bout with food poisoning, it wasn't surprising that her knees buckled.
* * *
Jackie hadn't gone down there to make trouble, and perhaps that's why he hadn't told her where he was going. For once in his life, it had been the opposite. Peter had asked Jackie to help get his nephew, Joshua, out of trouble.
The lad, like all in his family, was deeply religious and had gone down to the peninsula to preach to the heathen loyalists who mistook their queen for a goddess. He wouldn't be talked out of it, and since it was Jackie's talk that had convinced him to go, Peter thought Jackie might be able to talk him into coming home.
And he'd done it; Joshua came home safe, but alone. Jackie had been arrested in spite of the queen's treaty. He must have said something. And being Jackie, he would have said it to exactly the wrong person.
* * *
And now Mary sat in a tea shop in the peninsular city of New Isle, staring but unable to see the pile of newspapers in front of her. The shop owner--because he didn't know who she was--had kindly provided all the papers from the past few weeks.
She couldn't believe the trial was already over, over before she had got there. At least they didn't hang him, but they'd sentenced him to transportation, and he was already gone, on a ship somewhere far away and impossible to know.
How could it happen so fast? The man at the courthouse said it had been rushed, because of who he was. Then he found out who she was, and refused to say more. He just smirked and called her a whore, and told her to leave or he'd charge her. He didn't say with what. It was soon clear he meant it, so she didn't press the matter.
"I must eat something," she thought, but the little sandwich next to her tea made no more sense to her than the newspapers did.
She picked up another newspaper and scanned the report of the trial, unable to really read, but looking for some mention of where he'd been sent. Or the name of the boat. Or anything.
Then she saw the words Lady Ashton. She blinked and looked again. Lady Ashton had testified. She'd asked for clemency. Mary kept reading the words, but they made little sense. All she could think was that Lady Ashton must be in New Isle.
She staggered to her feet, clutching the paper with both hands. She started to stumble out, but someone took her arm. She looked up in confusion. It was the owner, and he was only trying to hand her bonnet to her. She found she couldn't let go of the newspaper, so she scooped the bonnet up in her arms and held both it and the paper to her chest.
"Thank you," she said. "I must go. I've found some help."
She stumbled out, and was three blocks away before she realized she hadn't paid, and the man must have known that.
People could be very kind, she thought, if they didn't know your name or your politics. But perhaps that was unfair. Perhaps he did know. He could see for himself what she was reading. Who was she to question his kindness? Jackie never would, for all he'd question everything else.
But then the thought of him drove her on, to find Lady Ashton, and a shred of hope.
Stay Tuned For Episode 2 - "Lady Ashton and the Man in the Dock"
The Test of Freedom should be available as an ebook in December 2012. It will be slightly rewritten from the version you see here.
The first book in this series, The Wife of Freedom is at most ebook retailers.
Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Deisel, Kobo, and Smashwords.
Also, Amazon International: UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Japan.