Collision Course - Part Two
Jamie went red when he saw Claire and Willie riding up to meet them then pale as he heard how close they’d come to encountering the Red Coat patrol.
“It willna do to be encountering another similar patrol,” Dougal declared. “Not wi’ the pair of ye wi’ us. Did ye recognize the bloke they took wi’ ‘em?” he asked Willie. “Wasna one of our crofters was it?”
Willie shook his head. “No one I’ve laid eyes on before. Might ha’ been a traveler of some kind––a peddler perhaps, though I didna see a cart.”
“I want to get Claire safe away to Leoch,” Jamie announced to Dougal who was already nodding his agreement.
“Aye. Take Murtagh with ye,” he ordered, knowing there was little chance the man would leave his godson’s side regardless. “We’ll finish gathering the rents and shouldna be more than a week or two behind ye. Ye’ve learned all ye can from Horrocks, that waste of time and space.”
Claire kept quiet until they had all mounted their horses and the party had formally split and parted ways. She deliberately slowed her horse and glanced back towards Craigh na Dun and the direction the Red Coats had dragged Frank.
“Ye were right, mo nighean donn,” Jamie said in a conciliatory manner. “Ye should ha’ come wi’ me. To think ye came so close to Red Coats…” He shook his head with disgust. “Can ye forgive me, lass?”
Claire stopped her horse and took a deep breath.
“Secrets, not lies, right?” she asked, waiting and watching him as his brow creased, the set of his mouth hardening with wariness.
“I probably should have told you this before we were married but I was afraid you wouldn’t believe me.” She scoffed. “You still might not but I don’t see a way around it now.”
Murtagh noticed Jamie and Claire had fallen behind and turned back to inquire as to the hold up.
Jamie deferred to Claire but was clearly prepared to send Murtagh further ahead as a scout.
She sighed. “There won’t be time to go through it all again. If you trust him––”
“With my life and yours,” Jamie interrupted firmly.
“Then he might as well stay and hear this too.”
The officers in the yard couldn’t hide their surprise as Frank was led into the fort.
“Best bring him up to Captain Randall’s office,” one of the men instructed Corporal Dawkins. “Must be a cousin or something of the sort,” he then murmured to a neighbor.
Frank kept silent, his training kicking in. What he couldn’t control was the way his heart pounded and his palms sweat. He had overheard the references to Captain Randall and knew they could only be talking about his ancestor. It was an unusual and unexpected opportunity and he was unable to think of a single thing to say despite the myriad of questions he’d had in the course of researching the man. It simply wouldn’t do to ask, “How do you come by the nickname ‘Black Jack’?” or “Are you really an agent of the Duke of Sandringham or do you have a different patron?” Similarly, he couldn’t give away anything he knew that hadn’t happened and as yet he had no idea of what the date might be––obviously it was before the ‘45, so somewhere between 1739 and 1744…
The corporal pushed him through a door into a dark office.
“Captain Randall will be with you shortly,” he was informed. The corporal swallowed uncomfortably and his head bobbed nervously.
“Thank you,” Frank said crossing to take a seat opposite the desk. He dusted off his pants and sat down leaning back and propping one foot on his other leg casually. The corporal made an odd noise behind him and Frank cleared his throat as he readjusted his posture. The instincts of his twentieth century training nudging him in the right direction but he had followed those instincts too far and he’d committed an anachronistic mistake.
A moment later the door closed behind him and he heard the latch fall into place. Waiting three beats to be sure, Frank leapt to his feet and circled the desk moving as lightly as possible.
There weren’t many papers on the desk but he did manage to ascertain he was sometime in 1743. Claire. The soldiers near that hill had mentioned a woman. He had to see if there were any references to a woman that might be Claire. He had to find her.
There was one message that had been crumpled and torn into near unreadability. All he could make out was that it had been signed by a Dougal MacKenzie, the war chief of Clan MacKenzie. Whatever news the message had carried had not been well received.
He put the correspondence down to better examine his surroundings––it wouldn’t do to become so engrossed in the materials on the man’s desk and have no greater understanding of his physical surroundings. Frank had visited Fort William several times during the course of his academic research before the war. Seeing it as a functioning fort after his own wartime experiences changed the way he looked at the space.
He crossed to the windows behind the desk. They opened inward and were at least two stories above the stone courtyard. Peering into the yard, which was only illuminated by the light of a few torches and the moon peeping in and out from the passing clouds, Frank could just make out the shape of the post used for flogging prisoners and insubordinate soldiers. There would be no escape through the windows. He would have to find some way to talk or fight his way out.
One man alone in the room shouldn’t be a problem if he could arm himself effectively and as long as he only encountered the guards outside one at a time he stood a chance against them as well.
But he couldn’t leave until he knew what had happened to Claire.