Thursday, January 17, 2013

Test of Freedom - Episode 26

Episode 26 - "The Other Slave Market"
by Camille LaGuire

Their search in Philipstown didn't turn up anything, and that left only more distant and scattered places to look.

They decided to split up, sending Sherman out to one of the two large plantations.  He wouldn't be able to describe Jackie as well, but the owners had the court contracts of the prisoners they bought--which would have a name on it.

The ladies, in the meantime went to East Harbor, the second largest town on the island, which was also the location of the other market.  It was a long trip by coach, around the north point, and halfway down that to the east.  On horseback, there was a chance that Sherman would catch up with them in the evening.

There was no hotel in East Harbor, but there were a number of inns.  It was, apparently, common for gentry to come to see their properties, only to find that the accommodations on their estates were lonely and not at all amenable to someone of quality.  Thus the inns did good enough business for there to be several that suited Lady Ashton's standards.  She was able to buy up the second floor of one of the smaller inns, which was above town on a small rise, where it was a bit cooler, though not by much.

As soon as they had settled in, Mary insisted: They went to the slave market.  This was a smaller place, less often used, but rougher, and more obvious about its purpose.  Mary tried not to look at the cagelike pens behind the platform inside its yard.  The man here was sneering and surly, but a glimpse of gold got them a look at the books.

Mary looked down the neat listings, ignoring the heat and the stench, and the misery the words in front of her represented.  These records were even less detailed than the previous set.  A number, a note as to whether they were juvenile, adult or aged, the price they went for, and who they were sold to.  She saw an additional note by one, "six feet".  Either the man had highly unusual anatomy, or they noted when they were tall.  Jackie wasn't tall, but they might have noted that he was strong.  Or that he was a smith.  She looked more carefully down the listings again.

"You must keep more detailed records than that," Lady Ashton argued.

"No," said the man, shaking his head and clearly enjoying the exchange.

"They are prisoners.  You must have some record of their presence.  If only for accountability that they are serving their sentence."

"That's with the owner."

"So we trust the owner to remember when to release them?"

"Well, you can't trust the prisoners, can you?"

"And what if some escaped?  You don't have records to account for...."

"None of these have escaped."

"You can't run a successful business without proper accounting and record keeping."

The man just shrugged at her.  Mary looked up from the book.

"And what do these numbers mean?"

"Lot number."

"And do they refer to another record anywhere?"


Mary closed the book, and stepped around to face the man.

"He's about this tall," she said, holding up her hand.  "And broad, with thick black hair, a bit curly, and blue eyes.  He'd have an attitude of rebellion about him."

"Not once they get here."

"Then he'd be showing signs that they'd beat the rebellion out of him."

Lady Ashton suddenly looked up and put a hand on Mary's arm.

"They might have put a gag on him.  They did at the trial."

"Oh, him," said the man.  "Yeah, he fit that description.  He was crying."  The man grinned at Mary, but as much as she hated him for being such a pig, she could have kissed him for giving her the first sign she'd heard that someone had seen him.

"Who bought him?" said Lady Ashton.

"Can't remember."

"You aren't earning your fee."

"You paid me to look at the book.  You looked at it."

"If you wanted more, you should have said so," said Lady Ashton, pulling open her reticule.  The man simply smiled and held out his hand, but then a shadow fell across them.

"You don't need to pay him."

The voice was stern and deep and well modulated, like  preacher. The ladies turned around to see a tall man in a broad straw hat.

Available after 8am EST, on Mon

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.

No comments: