No wonder townsfolk gave us a wide berth as we hurried back along the streets towards the Green Dragon. We were mud-splattered and bloodstained, and Charles was struggling back into his clothes. John, meanwhile, was curious to know about my animosity towards Braddock, and I told him about the slaughter at the skiff, finishing by saying, “Things were never the same after that. We campaigned together a few more times, but each outing was more disturbing than the last. He killed and killed: enemy or ally, civilian or soldier, guilty or innocent—it mattered not. If he perceived people to be an obstacle, they died. He maintained that violence was a more efficient solution. It became his mantra. And it broke my heart.”
“We should stop him,” said John, glancing behind, as though we might try at once.
“I suppose you’re right . . . But I maintain a foolish hope that he might yet be saved and brought back round to reason. I know, I know . . . it’s a silly thing, to believe that one so drenched in death might suddenly change.”
Or was it so silly? I wondered, as we walked. After all, hadn’t I changed?
14 JULY 1754
By staying at the Green Dragon, we were in the right place to hear of any rumblings against us, and my man Thomas kept his ear to the ground. Not that it was much of a chore for him, of course: listening out for any signs of a plot against us meant supping ale while he eavesdropped on conversations and pressed others for gossip. He was very good at that. He needed to be. We had made enemies: Silas, of course; but, most worryingly, General Edward Braddock.
Last night, I had sat at the desk in my room to write my journal. My hidden blade was on the table beside me, my sword within easy reach in case Braddock launched his inevitable retributive strike straight away, and I knew that that this was how it would be from now on: sleeping with one eye open, weapons never far from hand, always looking over our shoulders, every strange face belonging to a potential enemy. Just the thought of it was exhausting, but what other choice was there? According to Slater, Braddock had renounced the Templar Order. He was a loose cannon now, and the one thing worse than a loose cannon is a loose cannon with an army at his disposal.
I could at least console myself with knowing that I now had a hand-picked team and, once again, we were assembled in the back room, boosted by the addition of John Pitcairn, a more formidable proposition for either of our two opponents.
As I entered the room, they rose to greet me—even Thomas, who seemed more sober than usual as I cast my eyes over them. Benjamin’s wounds had healed nicely. John seemed to have cast off the shackles of his commission with Braddock, his preoccupied air replaced by a new lightness of spirit. Charles was still a British Army officer and was worried that Braddock might recall him and, consequently, when not looking down his nose at Thomas wore a concerned look. William stood at his lectern holding a quill in his hand, still hard at work comparing the markings on the amulet with the book and his own maps and graphs, still perplexed, the telling details still eluding him. I had an idea about that.
I gestured at them to take their seats, and sat among them.
“Gentlemen, I believe I’ve found the solution to our problem. Or, rather, Odysseus has.”
The mention of the Greek hero’s name had a somewhat varied effect on my companions and, as William, Charles and Benjamin all nodded sagely, John and Thomas looked somewhat confused, Thomas being the least self-conscious.
“Odysseus? Is he a new guy?” He belched.
“The Greek hero, you lobcock,” said Charles, disgusted.
“Allow me to explain,” I said. “We’ll enter Silas’s fort under the pretence of kinship. Once inside, we spring our trap. Free the captives and kill the slaver.”
I watched as they absorbed my plan. Thomas was the first to speak. “Dodgy, dodgy.” He grinned. “I like it.”
“Then let us begin,” I continued. “First, we need to find ourselves a convoy . . .”
Charles and I were on a rooftop overlooking one of Boston’s public squares, both dressed as redcoats.
I looked down at my own uniform. There was still a little of Slater’s blood on my brown leather belt and a stain on the white stockings, but otherwise I looked the part; Charles, too, even though he picked at his uniform.
“I’d forgotten how uncomfortable these uniforms are.”
“Necessary, I’m afraid,” I said, “in order to properly effect our deception.”
I looked at him. He wouldn’t have to suffer for long at least. “The convoy should be here soon,” I told him. “We’ll attack on my signal.”
“Understood, sir,” replied Charles.
In the square below us an upturned cart blocked the far exit, and two men were huffing and puffing as they tried to turn it the right way up again.
Or pretending to huff and puff and turn the cart the right way up, I should say, because the two men were Thomas and Benjamin and the cart had been deliberately tipped over by all four of us a few moments before, strategically placed to block the exit. Not far away from it were John and William, who waited in the shadows of a nearby blacksmith’s hut, sitting on upturned buckets with their hats pulled down low over their eyes, a couple of smithys taking a break, lazing the day away, watching the world go by.
The trap was set. I put my spyglass to my eye and looked over the landscape beyond the square, and this time I saw them—the convoy, a squad of nine redcoats making its way towards us. One of them was driving a hay cart and, beside him on the board, was . . .
I adjusted the focus. It was a Mohawk woman—a beautiful Mohawk woman, who, despite the fact that she was chained in place wore a proud, defiant expression and sat straight, in marked contrast to the redcoat who sat beside her driving, whose shoulders were hunched and who had a long-stemmed pipe in his mouth. She had a bruise on her face, I realized, and was surprised to feel a surge of anger at the sight of it. I wondered how long ago they’d caught her and how, indeed, they’d managed it. Evidently, she’d put up a fight.
“Sir,” said Charles from by my side, prompting me, “hadn’t you better give the signal?”
I cleared my throat. “Of course, Charles,” I said, and put my fingers in my mouth and gave a low whistle, watching as my comrades below exchanged “ready” signals, and Thomas and Benjamin kept up the pretence of trying to upturn the cart.
We waited—we waited until the redcoats marched into the square and found the cart blocking their way.