I wait for hours for my contact to show up. Hours on a muggy little dock, getting devoured by mosquitoes, bored as hell. But rebels want whiskey, and whiskey’s got to come from someone. And that’s me.
I start whistling quietly, just to pass the time. It would be better if I actually had some of that whiskey already… but everyone makes sacrifices these days, I guess.
And then a man dressed in a faded rebel’s uniform comes and sits down next to me. Not my normal contact, but I’ll feel him out.
“Morning,” I say, giving a slight nod without making eye contact. I can see by the buff cockade in his hat that he’s a captain. That might be a problem. An ordinary soldier would be happy for illegal whiskey. You never can tell with captains, though.
“Morning,” he says, tipping his hat.
“Quite a fine day.” I adjust the fishing rod I’d fashioned as my cover. “Fish haven’t really been biting yet.”
“It’s a little late for fish,” he says, looking up at the morning sun.
I shrug. “Sometimes I can get some late catches.”
He hesitates, but doesn’t reply. He just continues to sit on the dock, swinging his legs.
“If I get one, are you interested in it? Mighty fine dinner, these trout can provide.”
He eyes me, then nods.
“I’d take you up on that,” he says.
I smile. “It’ll be three pounds for the lot of my catch.”
He squints at me. “I was hoping you were giving me the fish out of patriotic zeal.”
I snort. “If I did that, there’d be no more fish for you to get, or for me to put on my plate.”
He hesitates, then chuckles. “Fair enough.”
“So we have a deal?”
“I didn’t say that.” He wags a finger at me. “I’ll think on it.”
“Think fast, before I find someone else who’s hungry.”
“There’s no one else on these docks.” He looks out at the sea, then stands, shielding his eyes with his hand. On the horizon, a small boat appears. My boat.
“You’re new,” I say quietly, tensing just slightly.
“Got transferred here from Virginia,” he says.
“You’re new on these docks,” I amend.
“What of it?”
I shrug. “Just wondering what happened to my old fishing companion.”
“Transferred. Demoted. Was apparently letting smugglers through. The men got rowdy, he got caught,” he says.
“Right.” I pull back my rod. “Well, I’ll let you have some time. Should probably return home now.”
“Fare you well.” He tips his hat again as the boat approaches the dock.
I wave the rod in a quick pattern to the boat, signalling that we’ll be meeting at the secondary location. Then I quickly gather my things and leave, crossing into the woods where the ground is covered with enough debris to hide my footprints.
A moment later, I see the sail of my partner’s boat at the secondary location and slow down, making sure the captain hasn’t followed me.
Douglas hops out of the boat and wades through the shallows, pulling it up alongside the muddy bank.
“Morning, Pearce,” he says.
“Brooks got caught.”
He winces. “It was bound to happen… damn fool liked his liquor too much to keep his mouth shut, I suppose.”
I grunt. “A captain met me. Played along, then he told me about Brooks… I think he was ready to arrest me if I had shown him the goods.”
“Think he’s suspicious?” Douglas asks.
“Damn right, he was suspicious,” a voice says from the trees.
I can’t stop a slight smile turning up the corner of my lip. “Come down, won’t you?”
The captain walks down the hill to the bank, pistol raised casually.
“Oh, you’re better than I thought.” I raise my own flintlock.
“Don’t,” the captain warns. “You don’t want my blood on your hands. Smuggling will land you a fine. Murder? That’s a trip to the gallows.”
“Only if they find you dead,” I say with a smile.
I see a flicker of fear in his eyes. He cocks the gun.
I glance to Douglas, who’s shifting nervously on his feet, then turn back to the captain. “What do you want?”
“I want you to come with me so that I can report you and end the drunken reputation of my men,” he says.
I laugh. “And what makes you think I’m just going to go with you?”
I hear a creak from behind me, and then a splash. The captain smiles.
“Well, it looks like your friend has abandoned you,” he says as Douglas shoves off and starts rowing for all he’s worth.
Damn. Well, I never really trusted the little blighter.
“You can’t prove anything, you know,” I say casually, leaning against a tree.
“I heard your entire conversation,” he says. “I have all the proof I need. These aren’t exactly the times that we have the resources to give every smuggler a full trial.”
“And yet having only the word of a young little captain without even the goods to back it up?” I tsk, shaking my head.
“They’ll believe me.” He takes a step forward.
“Or I could take you to the whiskey and you can get real proof.”
He hesitates. “You’d do that? What’s the catch?”
I raise my hands slightly. “No catch. Just trying to make things a little more fair for the mewling babe in a uniform.”
His eyes narrow as I smirk.
“Shut your mouth,” he snaps. “Lower that gun. You’re coming with me.”
I put my gun back in its holster. “Someone’s a bit touchy about their age. Youngest in the company? Teased recklessly for it? Facing insubordination because you were promoted even though you’ve barely left your mother’s breast?”
“That’s enough.” He jabs his gun at my back. “March.”
I snort and mimic an exaggerated soldier’s march.
He takes me all the way back to the encampment on the edge of the town. I take stock of the inhabitants— young, scrappy soldiers with hollow looks in their eyes.
“This is my company,” the captain says stiffly. “And unfortunately for you, I’m the highest ranking officer here.”
“I think that’s more unfortunate for you, my friend,” I say with a smirk.
He gives me a dead cold stare. “It means that I’m your judge and jury.”
I grin. “Terrifying.”
He leads me into a log cabin that’s in the center of the rings of tents. There’s a single desk inside, along with a cot up against the wall. It smells faintly of mint.
“Nice place.” I sit at the desk, putting my feet up on it.
“Up,” he growls, pointing the gun at me again.
I sigh dramatically and stand, but put on one of the hats he has lying around. He looks at me flatly, but doesn’t say anything.
At that moment, there’s a knock on the door.
“It’s open!” I call.
A very confused looking private comes in.
“Letter for you, sir,” he says, holding out a piece of paper to the captain. I snatch it from his hands before the captain can take it and start to read it.
Captain William Lockland,
We have received intelligence of a spy who has infiltrated the Continental Army at a high level. Given the urgency of this situation, we believe that the only way to find this spy efficiently is to put your man, Locksley, on the case. Please inform him of its dire nature. We will continue our investigation here, but we do not expect it to bear results. Our best intelligence indicates that the spy is reporting back to New York.
God be with you.
Major General Philip Schuyler
“Locksley.” I hold the letter out to Captain William between two fingers. “Your superiors should be more careful about using real names.”
“It’s not a real name.” He snatches the letter from me. “And you shouldn’t have read that.”
“What damage could I do? You’re planning to string me up yourself after all.”
“I’m reluctant to hang you,” he says finally.
I put a hand to my breast. “I’m touched.”
“But only because of what former Captain Brooks told me about you.” He studies me. “He says you smuggle to both sides.”
“I might.” I cross my arms.
“And into New York City itself.”
“The best distillers take root in the city.”
He sniffs. “As a Virginian, I doubt that. But no matter. My man Locksley needs a ride. I’ll let you off for a fine of five dollars if you take him with you, and promise never to smuggle to the Continental Army again.”
“Five dollars.” I shake my head. “You’d be better off asking me for sticks as bartering chips. I’m paid in pounds.”
He rolls his eyes. “The equivalent, then.”
I give a little nod. “As for the smuggling… I need an occupation, Captain.”
“Smuggle to the British. Get them drunk for a change.”
I sigh. “And in exchange for all of this, I have to now be part of your suicidal spy ring?”
“It’s not suicidal. Locksley’s the best there is.” He sniffs. “And yes. It’s a small price to pay for your neck.”
I give another sigh. “Fine. But I’ll need some payment upfront. That three pounds I was expecting should do it.”
“Payment? For what?” he demands.
“For ferrying around your man. That’s why I’ve been brought here, isn’t it?”
“You’ve been brought here,” he says lowly, “because I should hang you for your crimes. Instead, I’m giving you a second chance. Take it. Or you’ll swing.”
“You can’t prove my crimes.” I lean forward. “You never even saw if I actually had wares to trade.”
“Do you think it matters to me? I told you. I’m judge, jury, and executioner. My men will do what I tell them to do.”
I step forward so my face is right in front of his. “Now, isn’t that the exact mindset you patriots claim to be fighting against?” I murmur.
He flushes. “Stand down.”
I smirk and step back. “I’m not wrong.”
“I won’t hang you because I’m a gracious man,” he says stiffly.
“Gracious, or opportunistic?”
“Take what you’re given, smuggler.”
I brush a bit of invisible dust off his shoulder and step back nonchalantly. “Fine. If I must.”
“When do you usually deliver to the British?” he asks.
“Twice a month. Three times if they’re particularly thirsty.”
“And your next shipment?”
“Then I’ll keep you in our gaol until then.”
I give him a look. “Is that really necessary, Captain?”
“You’ll just run if I let you go.”
“Well… maybe I won’t.”
He gives me a look. I shrug innocently.
“No,” he says flatly.
I flop dramatically into his chair again, tilting my head back and raising a hand to my forehead. “Fine. Take me away.”
He roughly grabs my wrists and hauls me to my feet. I let him lead me to the gaol— there’s no point in trying to run.