Roxanne felt a wave of panic rise in her throat, grabbing hold as if the man's hand were around her throat instead of on her shoulder. She forced herself to breathe through nose and mouth. This wasn't an entirely new situation. There had been times at the club when she had needed to escape the unwelcome attention of a demanding patron, and this bastard didn't seem much different from his modern counterparts. She put the pail on the ground, freeing up both hands, and worked at relaxing tense muscles. She stopped fighting and become loose in his grip.
"Good plan, boy. No use making this harder than it has to be. You and me are gonna have us a little fun." He rubbed himself through his breeches with his free hand, and cackled, "Well...maybe it'll be me having' most of the fun. You just stay nice and quiet."
She wondered if she could reach the blade in her left boot, but decided against it. Bending over to grab it would cost her precious balance, and likely put him on notice that she intended to fight back. The element of surprise was an asset that was worth retaining, and so she eyed the small shed for an alternative weapon, spying the heavy iron shovel against the wall in the furthest corner. She turned her face and gave the soldier a blank grin, taking a few steps in the direction of the shovel as she did so, and hoping he'd take her lead.
So intent on his fun, the man followed, pushing her toward the corner with the shovel. "You are mightily stupid, boy, and I'm glad of it." He gave a final push, and her face fit the rough wood of the shed wall. With one hand still on her shoulder, he leaned his Brown Bess against the wall, and then began to fumble with the stays on his breeches, face turned downward. Roxanne grabbed the shovel, but before she could swing, a second figure appeared at the shed entrance, musket pointed at them.
"Take your bloody hands off that child."
The red coat turned, his breeches slipping to his knees, leaving him exposed. He didn't attempt to pull up his pants, but instead reached for his weapon. Focused on the man in the doorway, he paid no attention to the boy behind him, leaving her free to grab the shovel and bring it down hard on the back of his head. There was a heavy thump, and the soldier crumpled to the ground in front of her. For several seconds, neither she or Ian moved, he shocked at the idiot boy's fortitude, she lost in the thought that he'd come to her aid. Even if speaking were an option, she wasn't sure she could form the words that needed to be said, but Fate would decide otherwise.
She didn't see the second soldier until he was directly behind Ian, musket pointed at his back. She saw him pull the trigger, saw the puff of smoke, and screamed, "Ian...behind you!"
The words coming from the mute boy's mouth startled him, but he turned in reaction, and the musket ball whizzed by him, catching Roxanne squarely in the chest, and knocking her off her feet. She fell to the ground, her head meeting the heavy timber of the wall. Lights erupted behind her eyeballs like a Fourth of July celebration, and then everything went instantly dark, as if a button in her head had suddenly been pushed to the 'off' position.
The first clear thoughts floated in her head, puffy clouds of consciousness you saw above you but couldn't reach. She could hear someone calling her name, frantic, worried. Her mother perhaps, a fearful soul without an ounce of hope. She could hear her shouting over and over again..."Roxanne, Roxanne...can you hear me?" Logic swam in threads through her thoughts. No. Not mother. Mother was dead. Mother couldn't be calling to her. Unless, of course, she was as dead as her mother, a lost soul wandering between heaven and hell. Which. of course, she refused to believe, especially as her body throbbed with a burning pain she couldn't identify. From everything she had read on the subject, pain was an impossibility when you entered the here after. Or at least that's what everyone said.
She willed her eye to open, if for no reason other than to verify the state of her being. Maybe she'd see the famous white light, and know for sure she was truly dead. Instead, she saw a blurry face, two eyes the color of June skies, and a mouth forming words she was only beginning to make sense of.
"Robert...Come on, Rob. Stay with us. You're going to be okay. Give me a sign you can hear me."
No. Not Mother. Beckett. The Sheriff was talking to her. Calling her Robert. Why was he calling her Robert? That wasn't her name. Wait. He was her boss. Yes. She was working undercover. Was Robert her name after all? But why was he looking down at her? Why was she looking up at him? There were other people too, and as the clouds cleared, she saw the woman with dark hair, something in the back of her brain realizing it was Maureen. Yes. Maureen, who was currently not Maureen. And someone else. With green eyes. Ian. She struggled to push words out of her mouth, but they came out a strange mix of consonants and vowels, and so she fought instead to stay awake. To at least listen to what was being said.
"We need to see exactly where the musket ball entered. How deep the wound is."
There was a tug at her clothes, and then the sound of linen ripping. Someone had balled up her coat, and stuck it under her head, and someone else held her hand. A someone with hands much larger than hers. She strained to make sense of the words.
"You said he was a deaf and mute, but I heard him speak. He saved my life."
"I apologize for the lack of honesty, Mr. Sawyer. As you well know, these are dangerous times, and one must be prudent with the sharing of truth."
"Aye. That they be. And I must admit to being grateful for your brother's ability to speak."
The pain grew in intensity as the clouds in her head began to reform, a searing, red-hot poker stabbing her in the chest, making each breath a challenge. Again, she tried to speak, but the sounds gurgled off her tongue. The movement of cloth being pulled from her skin made her arch her back in painful response, it hurting more than anything she could ever remember. More awful then the time she had burned her hand on the oven door. Worse than the time she had run a nail through her foot. There was the feel of cool breeze on bare skin, and before she slipped back into the darkness, she heard a voice say...
"Lord Almighty...he's a she!"
It would have worked out fine if it hadn't been for the paintings. There hadn't been enough time before Patrick's arrival to tear them all down. And so they stayed, hung in conspicuous places all over the flat. It wasn't as if you could ignore them either, so beautiful and delicate in their nature they called you to their attention. Fr. Kevin hadn't a clue how either of them would explain his sister's sudden emergence of talent, and he asked for additional forgiveness for the lies he would surely have to compose.
It was Rachel who handled most of the fibbing for him, launching into a long story how she had taken a few lessons with someone she'd met in town. He marveled at her given ability to create believable stories out of nothing, and the thought came to him that her special skill would certainly be required of her in the turmoil of her own time. It also surprised him that Patrick believed the story
without hesitation. Patrick, the brother made his living getting people to say things they didn't want. He seemed most thrilled that his sister had developed this new hobby, and genuinely pleased when she gifted him with a few of his favorites.
If his brother had taken the water colors in the spirit they were given, and had just been on his way, things would have been fine. But Patrick being Patrick always made things difficult, and when he decided that since Beckett was "away" on business, and since Maureen was taking a few days off from the deli anyway, she should accompany him back to Boston to meet with a gallery owner he knew, things got decidedly more complicated.
|Rachel's watercolors capture Patrick's attention|
Copyright Victoria T. Rocus 2015
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