Where Freedom Lies

True revolution begins in the heart.

By Julie Williams

 

Chapter 1

 

18 April 1775 ~ Pedrick’s Wharf, Marblehead, Massachusetts

 

Is it easier to capture a secret or keep one?

Hannah looped King’s reins over the nearest rail and scurried into the stuffy warehouse. Today only capture mattered. Oh, not for herself. This secret was hers to get—not hers to know.

Hinges protested behind her, inching out the daylight and concentrating the stench of salted cod.

“Why are we here?” Andy’s whisper cracked the silence behind her.

A squeal leapt up her throat and she caught it with a practiced hand. At least he hadn’t seen fit to put a spider down her neck. “When I asked you along—”

“Begged.”

“A minor difference.”

“I should be home clearing the lower field.” His lanky frame blocked what little light filtered through the window. She’d take her hankie to the dust and cobwebs if she wouldn’t be required to launder it afterward.

“Your mood’s blocking the light.” Hannah grabbed his sleeve and towed him between salt barrels to the rough-hewn counter.

“Hallo, Mr. Holloway. I’ve come for Papa’s letter.”

The tip-thump of the old man’s approach echoed through the congested room. A halo of light bobbed around the stacks of crates, with Mr. Holloway at its center. A corner of paper peeped out of his apron pocket—a single, miniature glowing triangle. No need to see the script on the outside to know the missive bore Papa’s name.

She’d give her firstborn to get her hands on it. A snort bubbled up and she turned it into a cough. A presumptuous offering for a maid. Her fingers traced the tiny filigree etched in the locket at her neck. What would she give to garner Papa’s secret? Her right arm. No. Left—below the elbow.

Mr. Holloway held out his lantern till the heat threatened to singe Andy’s eyebrows. “You’re not James.”

Hannah held her sigh. Andy bore Papa’s flaxen hair and freshwater eyes. Mr. Holloway need only lift those shaggy brows to see the resemblance.

She looked back to the old man, careful not to let her gaze stray to the note. So close, she could snatch it and charge off on King before he could hobble out the warehouse door. That stunt would raise more than Papa’s ire, a means not worth taking, even with Andy to share the blame.

Charm and patience were the order of the day. She smiled into the crinkled face, rimmed by wispy, white hair. “Mr. Holloway, meet my twin brother, Andrew James Griffin. Papa sent him in his stead.” She bit her inner lip. No taking back the lie now.

“An honor, sir.” Andy extended his hand, with nary a glitch of conscience.

Mr. Holloway shook his head, leaving Andy’s hand dangling. “Nothing today, Miss Griffin.” He poked the note out of view.

“A little candor, Mr. Holloway.” She drew a steadying breath. Coming clean always proved harder than spinning a yarn. “I’ve come with Papa every month since October and pretended not to see you pass that paper to him. I ride home with eyes averted while he reads the message. Endure his moody silence for the miles it takes him to shake his disappointment.”

The old man’s face didn’t alter. Was his heart cut of the same granite?

“What if today’s note holds the information Papa seeks? Will you make him wait another month?”

Mr. Holloway grunted, and thudded out the door with a gait born more from a ship than dry land—Papa’s note sailing from her grasp.

Andy caught her elbow. “Does Pa know we’re here?”

“He always says do for others. Well, today I’m doing for him.”

She caught up to the old man in three steps. “Papa would have come himself…” She scanned the deserted wharf for eavesdroppers. No need to lower her voice. If her words failed to make their way past the hair sprouting from his ears, this attempt would be lost. “The Committee of Supply called Papa to meeting this morning. Surely you’ve heard the rumblings from Boston.”

He stopped and wobbled a turn.

Her hand shot out to steady him, but she pulled it back. Better to bolster his pride with words, than wound it with actions. “The Sons of Liberty are counting on you.”

That lifted his eyelids. The liver-spotted hand teased the note from his pocket. It trembled in his fingers for a long moment.

Hannah held her breath and plied him with an earnest look instead of further enticement.

He folded it twice more, and flattened the crease with yellowed nails. His eyes almost disappeared beneath his brows. “It come from Portsmouth. See your pa gets it.” He passed the note around her—to Andy.

“Yes, sir.” Andy pocketed the message, and winked at Hannah.

Fine. Let him deliver the note. She’d played her part—that was enough. She dipped a curtsy. “Thank you, Mr. Holloway.”

He grunted again.

Hannah measured her pace until she rounded the first corner from the wharf, then broke into a run.

“Where to now?” Andy loped alongside her.

“Deliver the message, of course.”

“You know where the Committee is meeting?”

“I’d guess Watertown. Maybe Menotomy.” She thrust her foot into King’s stirrup. “Did Papa say something about Cambridge this morning?”

Andy jumped on Prince’s back and grabbed King’s bit. “So you’re going to knock on every door between here and Lexington?”

A tug of King’s reins freed her mount. “Someone along the way will know. It won’t take long.” She turned up Fore Street and gave King his head.

Her whole life she played Andy’s shadow, content to join whatever scheme he planned. She ducked a leafless branch that loomed over the road. Today, she commanded the mission.

She prodded King to a faster gallop, keeping a half-length lead on Andy. Next month they’d turn another year. The fact trembled through her. What exactly did it mean to come of age? Andy would run off to join the minutemen. And she’d be what? Confined to domestic rote.

Not today.

Not with the taste of adventure fresh on her lips.

The sun dipped toward the horizon when they neared the Bay Road. Hannah cast a triumphant glance over her shoulder.

Flecked with mud, Andy pointed and shouted. The pounding of horse hooves trampled his words, but not their meaning. This win went to her. She eased King to a walk and patted his sleek brown neck.

Crossing the lane before them, half a dozen men rode in tight formation. Maybe Andy hadn’t conceded loss.

He brought Prince alongside. “If we head straight home, we’ll run up on the army.”

“If they’re Regulars, I’m the queen’s nose.” She pulled King to a stop. “Don’t let Papa’s intrigue go to your head. There’s not a red coat among them.”

Andy jumped from Prince and lifted his front hoof. “Look beyond me.”

Over Prince’s back, across the barren field, where the road led to Menotomy, four more riders congregated around a farmer plowing the far edge of his field.

“See the way the sun glints off ’em. Same polished boots, same white breeches. Piteous disguises.” He set the hoof down and came back to her side. “We’ll wait for them to join the others, then take the long way home. No sense broadcasting our presence.”

“Ha.” She shot Andy a wicked grin. A few ill-dressed soldiers didn’t warrant abandoning her mission. “Everyone’s playing at secrets these days. Doesn’t mean Papa’s is dangerous.”

“You said the Sons—”

“Just to get the note from Mr. Holloway.”

Andy pulled out the paper. “You think it’s a woman?” He unfolded the first two creases.

A snort blasted from Hannah’s nose. “Not the way he looks at Mama.”

Blocky letters sprawled Papa’s name across the page. She nodded with only her brows. “That’s a man’s hand.”

“Still…” Andy tapped it against his thigh. “I might be sensitive.”

Hang his reticence. Hannah’s pulse raced like the rumors. The army planned a raid on Concord—as early as tonight. These must be scouts. With a little coaxing, she’d turn gossip into information.

“Come on, Andy. We’ll have some sport.” She scuffed her heels against King’s side.

Andy caught her reins. “Don’t be daft.”

“Don’t play Papa. If you’re scared, I’ll carry the note. They would never search a woman.”

“No, the army isn’t interested in girls.”

A lack of three weeks would not define her as a child. “We’ll see what sport this woman can instigate.” She nudged King, and with a toss of his head, she broke free.

Andy mounted and caught her up. “Hurling insults about the Crown is one thing, but twisting the lion’s tail? The last time someone tried it, Boston watched five of their own die.”

She held her hands open. “No rocks, no snowballs—I’m not seeking another massacre. We’ll creep up behind and catch some intelligence.”

The mischievous twinkle returned to his eyes. “You’re expecting a lot from our army.” He snapped Prince’s reins and set a steady clip.

She rode at his side. A second adventure in one day, she could ask no more.

Six soldiers cantered three abreast, hogging the road from rock wall to rock wall.

Andy closed the gap to ten feet, then eased the pace to match their crawl.

Hannah strained for any snippet of conversation. Mute as tin soldiers. Dull as rocks. Mad as—

The soldier at right rear turned in his saddle. Looked her right in the eyes. Grinned like he’d heard her thoughts. “Clear a way.”

The soldiers did a Red Sea parting. And without a by-your-leave Andy plunged into the gap they created. Faith had been on Moses’ side. A miracle wrought by God demanded action. A parting of the Regulars ought to cause hesitation.

“Might you direct us to where Mr. Hancock stays?” the man at the left rear asked when Andy came alongside.

“Han-cock” He drew the name out in a lazy-school-boy voice. “A cock in the hand is worth… No, that’s not right.”

Tiny fingers of lightening raced up Hannah’s arms. Every hair stood at attention without the benefit of Franklin’s key and kite. If the Regulars were after Mr. Hancock and Sam Adams, their target boasted more than the guns and supplies in Concord. Papa needed to hear this—now.

“Come along, Mr. Griffin.” Her voice came out an octave too high. “If you dally, we shall miss our engagement.”

The soldier in the front of the left column snapped his gaze to Andy. His eyes narrowed as they traveled up and down her brother’s frame. His burnt-gold coat would bust its seams if he turned any farther in his saddle.

“Griffin, you say.” The man across from him twisted likewise. “A familiar name, eh, Stone?”

Every busk in Hannah’s bodice pinched. Breathing became a chore. Had she put Papa in danger by a careless word? She stared at Andy’s back, willing him to get them home without incident.

“From another burning pit.” Stone spat. “You got a pa, boy?”

She could taste her heart.

“Reckon a boy’s gotta have a pa.” Andy flicked his reins. “Else he’d never been born.”

The brute’s lips curled and he hurled another wad of tobacco to the ground.

A soldier, whose arms hung inches beyond his cuffs, sidled his horse closer, until his knee rustled Hannah’s skirts. “No need to hurry on our account.”

She’d rather have the spider down her back.

A hundred plodding steps it took for King to clear the frontmost riders and another dozen to come abreast of Andy.

“There’s ten out now.” He looked far too happy in the setting light. “There’ll be a hundred more by morning. Hold your pace till we reach the next bend, then charge for home.”

* * *

Hannah was as lathered as King by the time the lighted windows of Munroe Tavern came into sight and with them, the sense of finding old friends. Hannah reared up in her stirrups and drew breath to deliver the night’s big news.

Mrs. Munroe burst from the doorway, waving a dishrag. “The Regulars are out. Solomon Brown says they’re coming this way. Spread the word.”

Did everyone know? Hannah sank back in her saddle. A chill wind raked her clammy arms. Well if the Regulars counted on surprise, they’d be disappointed, too. At least her original mission was secure. She nudged Andy. “We need to find Papa.”

“He’ll know by now.”

“About the other thing.”

Andy fished the note from his pocket and did the unthinkable. He unfolded the last crease. “Look to Concord.”

“That’s it?” Hannah snatched it from him and stared. All this fuss for three words and a signature? There had to be more, something hidden by the gathering dark.

“Old news. Leave it on Pa’s desk.” Andy spurred Prince forward again.

Hannah fought to catch up. “Now where?”

“Home to clean my Fowler.”

“You cleaned your rifle yesterday.”

He didn’t seem to hear. He was charging off to a mission all his own.

“And the day before.”

A distancing, greater than the length spreading out between them tore at Hannah’s chest. She rode at her own pace, allowing the cryptic message to nettle her. If it warned of the Regulars’ movements, it would have come from Boston.

The old man swore it came from Portsmouth.

 

 

 

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©2010 Julie Williams. All Rights Reserved

 

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