Fleeing the Shadows FREE PEEK
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Copyright©2016 by Phyllis A. Still
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
August 23, 1775
My linen neckerchief flapped on the clothesline in the morning breeze. I took the garment in my hand and sighed. No matter how many times I’d scrubbed it with lye soap over the past week, the dirt stains remained. But I can’t make a rag of it yet. I’d given it to a bartered slave named Adam, for saving my three-year-old brother Charlie from drowning. I swallowed a lump and blinked back tears. Adam and Big Jim fled from their owner that same day. I learned of Adam’s capture ten days ago, from a vile Tory named Toloman, after seeing the neckerchief around his grungy neck.
My heart raced as the image of the evil Tories, Jinks, and Toloman, flashed through my mind. They were the ones who had captured Adam and sold him to West Indies traders. They were also the ones who’d lured me with frying bacon the morning after delivering the dispatches. And they were the ones who’d led me to the very Tories who were seeking Papa’s life that night. It was Toloman who shoved me from my horse to the ground, injuring my shoulder.
I ignored the twinge of pain that remained there. If I’d stayed hidden after delivering Papa’s dispatches, we wouldn’t be in danger. We could have left for Kentucky in time to catch the Boones. But I wouldn’t have learned about Adam and recovered my neckerchief.
I shook my head at the clothesline. You’re a fool, Mary Shirley. Why bother? It’s ruined forever. I adjusted the oval basket on my hip and stepped along the line, lifting the wooden clothespins from the neckerchief and Sally’s diapers with my free hand. The fresh-scented wash fluttered into the basket.
It could have been worse. The Tories learned from Isaiah Brown that I wasn’t a boy; he’d seen me before as a girl. Thanks to divine intervention, I got away from them, but Isaiah followed me. I shot him in the knee and escaped. I hope he suffers for the rest of his life. The last diaper landed in the pile.
I straightened my back, feeling proud. Papa said the documents were life-saving—something to do with a Tory named John Connolly allying the Shawnee to stay loyal to the king and raid the western settlements.
When I turned toward our two-story cabin, my stomach fluttered. Papa rode into the yard on Little Sis, and our dog, Drummer, stopped at the spring. I waved, but Papa’s tense face gave me the shivers. He’d gone to Fort Culbertson before dawn. He wanted the latest news and to verify that the newlywed couple could still come tenant our farm in two days, when we removed to Kentucky.
I gripped the basket with both hands, sucking in the hot August air as he dismounted and rushed toward me.
“We have to leave as soon as we can load.” He took the basket from my arms. “Cool Little Sis down for me while I carry this in and explain to Momma.”
I grabbed the sleeve of his tan hunting shirt. “What’s wrong?”
He clenched his jaw, and his slate-blue eyes searched mine. “My contact said Loyalists from Augusta County have offered a hundred-pound bounty on my head. If caught, I’ll hang for treason against the king. We need to get to the safety of Wood’s Fort by midafternoon. The McGuires have gone into hiding.”
I stepped back, fighting tears. Why did I have to brag to Toloman about acquiring my fast horse from William McGuire?
Papa lay his free hand on my arm. “It’s not your fault. They would have been after me for divulging their plan sooner or later anyway. God is watching out for us. Once we get some miles behind us, we’ll be able to catch our breath again.” He rushed into the cabin.
It is my fault, and now the McGuires are in danger too. I blinked away tears and rotated the stiffness from my shoulder. No time to cry. My heart pounded as I removed the mare’s saddle and hoisted it over the fence rail. I walked her around the yard once, then led her out to graze. At least my foot’s mostly healed. A ruptured blister had festered, and Momma had scraped the infection out.
The cabin door flung open so fast the metal hinges didn’t have time to squeak. My eight-year-old brother, George, leapt from the porch and sprinted to the barn. “We’re going. We’re finally going.”
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