Monday, January 7, 2013

Test of Freedom - Episode 23

Episode 23 - "Hingle's Investigation"
by Camille LaGuire

No one knew where Hingle had gone, but there wasn't much to do about it.  It was still daytime, and Hingle had been through a war, although not as a warrior -- just as a spy.  Still, that required some sense.

They ate a luncheon, and went to the market.  The market man showed them his records, which were not as helpful as they might be.  They didn't have names in it, for instance.  But there were notes, and Mary insisted on going through them herself, because she was the only one who knew Jackie, and could spot some detail that may have to do with him.  The best factor was age, since most of them were young, or quite old.  And they mentioned profession, too, but she didn't see a single smith, or journalist either.  None listed as revolutionists.

But they came away with a list of other places to look.  There was another market on the other side of North Point, and there were several large plantations on the south side of the island that may have purchased men straight from the boat.  There were also a few local buyers they'd culled from the market records.

Hingle was still not back when they returned to the hotel.  They discussed how they would go about the search well into the evening, and still no Hingle.

It was only after dark, when they were about to send Mr. Sherman in search of the young scamp, that Hingle finally came home.  He staggered a bit, and smelled like drink, but he was beaming and happy.

"He isn't dead!" he announced, triumphantly.

"Where have you been?" shouted Loreen.  She was too old for his flirting, but almost old enough to act as a mother.

"I've been all over the docks," he said.  "I found a crewman from the Crown's Mercy."

"What?"  Mary got up and took his arm, bringing him in to sit down.  "Is the ship here?"

"No, he'd been left behind because he was sick."

"And he remembers Jackie?"

"No, but he remembers the ones that died, because it was his job to....  Well, he had to deal with the bodies.  That's how he caught the fever himself, he says.  He said it was a good voyage.  Only five died, which he says was good.  And those that died all started in weak and old."

Mary took a breath, frozen in joy, and yet the words brought a picture to her mind of the men that had died.  Five old men who shouldn't have been on the boat in the first place.

"Are you sure?" she said, bringing her mind back.  There was nothing she could do about those fellows.  Nothing.

"Yes, I'm sure," said Hingle, grinning.  "I gave him all my money, which wasn't much, but he was glad of the drink it bought.  We talked for a long time.  He told me all kinds of things.  Your Jackie wasn't one of those who died on board."

Mary threw her arms around him.

"Thank you, Hingle.  Thank you."

"I didn't want you to be crying," he said.  "Not without cause, anyway."

"Well, too bad, because now I'm crying again."

Then they settled down on the balcony under the flapping banners of the fortress above them.  Music floated down from there, where they seemed to be gearing up for a party--the changing of Governors, they'd heard.

Mary blocked the music from her mind and turned her thoughts back to the work of dividing up the search.  Jackie may have survived the voyage, but there were many other hazards and man could suffer.

Available after 8am EST, on Thursday

The first book in this series, The Wife of Freedom is at most ebook retailers.
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