Monday, February 11, 2013

Test of Freedom - Episode 33

Episode 33 - "Clement and Rocken"
by Camille LaGuire

The servant girl who had silently brought tea to Lady Ashton and Mr. Clement that evening was named Sisi.  And now, after the ladies had gone, she hovered just by the service door, listening to Mr. Clement pound and shout from within the closet.

She was terrified of letting him out.  She didn't want to be the first thing he saw when he got out of there.  She could get Mr. Rocken to do it, but she was afraid of him too.

But inside her, in her very heart, she was also thrilled; There was Mr. Clement screaming and pounding in helplessness, bested not by Mr. Rocken or any of those big men who could if they tried, but by a woman!

Sisi would have liked to leave him in there forever, until his hands were bloody from pounding, and no one ever heard his screams.  But she couldn't.

She waited until the ladies had got their man away, and then stood by the door of the closet.  She waited until he was particularly loud before she slipped the cane from its place.  He didn't hear it, so she scurried from the room, trembling in relief.

And it was just in time, because Mr. Rocken came storming in a moment later.  Sisi huddled outside the service door, as she always did, watching through the crack.

"Clement!  What kind of a fool are you?" shouted Rocken, and then he paused to look around the office.  Mr. Clement shouted and rattled the closet door, which immediately popped open.  He came out, looking confused.

"I was locked in," he said.

"Were you?" said Rocken, a little louder than he should.  He weaved a little like he was drunk.

"Yes, dammit, I was!  Did you unlock it?"

"No, I was handing over the damned prisoner you sold."

"Why didn't you check with me?  You shouldn't have handed him over."

"I had to.  She had all the proper papers, that you signed."

"You should have checked with me."

"Why?  It isn't as though you could change your mind once you'd signed them."  Rocken paused.  "That was your handwriting, wasn't it?"

"They forced me to sign those papers."

"A pair of women?"  Rocken began to laugh.  "How? With their pretty eyes?"

"They threatened me!"

Rocken laughed louder.  "They were a terrifying pair...."

"With a pistol, dammit!"

"Just like they locked you in the closet," said Rocken, and he stopped laughing, although he still had that wrinkle in his sneer.  "That door doesn't even have a lock."

"Dammit, Rocken, I'll have your hide."

Mr. Rocken quickly lowered his head, but his shoulders were stiff.  Would Mr. Rocken get a beating?  The very thought was a wonder.

Sisi watched as Mr. Clement stood still too, and they were both tense as could be.  She thought that maybe Mr. Clement couldn't beat him, because then no one would respect him and Clement would have to do all the work.  And maybe Mr. Rocken would beat him back.

"I'm sorry, boss," said Mr. Rocken.  "I've been drinking."

Sisi was torn between triumph that even Mr. Rocken was not as strong as that woman, and sorrow that she wouldn't get to see him beat Mr. Clement after all.

"Drunk the night before you have to hang someone?" said Clement.  "You're going soft."

"Apparently we all have our weak points."

"She had a pistol."

Mr. Rocken nodded thoughtfully.  "But she paid you, didn't she?"


"Paid well?"

"Two hundred."

Rocken let out a whistle.  "Not bad."  He thought for a moment.  "We could use that."

"We could, but...."

"No, boss, we need it.  We just lost two to fever, and another shot, and a broken leg.  And we already have too many old or broken.  You have to admit, being robbed by ladies isn't something to brag about.  Keep the gold."

"And leave the men thinking they can get away with uprising?"

"We've got one body on display.  That's the ring leader.  We say the other just helped, so we just sold him someplace hellish.  Compton's Mine.  And they saw what I did to him."

"I don't like it," said Mr. Clement, like a spoiled boy.

"If you try to get him back, you're out the two hundred, and you won't have him either, because you'll hang him.  And you'll have fees from fighting a rich woman in court.  This way you can replace him with two at least."

"Dammit, get out of here," said Mr Clement.  "And put Sisi in the slave house.  I'm not in the mood for her."

Sisi scurried back toward the kitchen, relieved that she didn't have to stay in the house tonight, but terrified of being caught listening.  She set to cleaning up the tea things quickly, and was at the basin as Mr. Rocken came in.

"Come on, Sisi," he said.  She cringed away from him, but at least he wasn't one who tried to touch her.  He looked down at the dishes.  "Go ahead, finish up."

He took up one of the tea cakes, one that hadn't been touched at all by the woman who had the pistol, the one with the dark hair and the eyes like iron.  Sisi washed up the dishes and put away the tray.  He ate half the cake, and then held the other half out to her.

He'd never been friendly to her before, and she was afraid of what it meant.  Still, she liked cake.  So she reached for it anyway.  He pulled it just a little out of reach.

"First, Sisi, tell me, did the ladies have a pistol?"

She nodded cautiously.

"And did you let Mr. Clement out of the closet?"

Sisi froze.  She swallowed and started to shake, as she searched his face for a clue as to what he would do.

"I won't tell him," said Mr. Rocken.  His smile wasn't really a smile, but it never was.  Still, he held the cake out.  "Go ahead.  Take it.  That's all I wanted."

Sisi didn't want the cake any more, but she took it anyway.  If she didn't, he might take her hand to force it on her, and she didn't want him to touch her.

Stay Tuned For Episode 34 - "Lady Ashton and Sherman"
Available after 8am EST, on Thurs

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.

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