“What the hell is this?” said one of the front guards.
“A thousand pardons, sirs—seems we’ve had ourselves an unhappy little accident,” said Thomas, with open hands and an ingratiating smile.
The lead redcoat took note of Thomas’s accent and at once assumed a contemptuous look. He went a shade of purple, not quite angry enough to match the colour of his tunic, but deep enough.
“Get it sorted—and quickly,” he snapped, and Thomas touched a servile hand to his forelock before turning back to help Benjamin with the cart.
“’Course, milord, at once,” he said.
Charles and I, now on our bellies, watched. John and William sat with their faces hidden but they, too, watched the scene as the redcoats, rather than simply marching around the cart or even—God forbid—helping Thomas and Benjamin to put the cart straight, stood and looked on as the lead guard became more and more furious, until his temper finally snapped.
“Look—either get your cart right, or we’re riding through it.”
“Please don’t.” I saw Thomas’s eyes dart up to the rooftop where we lay, then across to where William and John sat ready, their hands now on the hilts of their swords, and he spoke the action phrase, which was “We’re nearly finished.”
In one movement Benjamin had drawn his sword and run through the nearest man, while, before the lead guard had a chance to react, Thomas had done the same, a dagger appearing from within his sleeve, which was just as quickly embedded into the lead guard’s eye.
At the same time, William and John burst from cover, and three men fell beneath their blades, while Charles and I jumped from above, catching those nearest by surprise: four men died. We didn’t even give them the solace of breathing their last breath with dignity. Worried about getting their clothes stained with blood, we were already stripping the dying men of their uniforms. In moments we had pulled the bodies into some stables, shut and bolted the door, and we then stood in the square, six redcoats who had taken the place of nine. A new convoy.
I looked around. The square had not been busy before, but now it was deserted. We had no idea who might have been a witness to the ambush—colonials who hated the British and were glad to see them fall? British Army sympathizers who even now were on their way to Southgate Fort to warn Silas about what had happened? We had no time to lose.
I jumped into the driver’s seat, and the Mohawk woman pulled away slightly—as far as her manacles would allow, anyway—and gave me a wary but mutinous look.
“We’re here to help you,” I tried to reassure her. “Along with those held within Southgate Fort.”
“Free me then,” she said.
Regretfully, I told her, “Not until we’re inside. I can’t chance an inspection at the gate going wrong,” and was rewarded with a disgusted look, as though to say it was just as she’d expected.
“I’ll see you safe,” I insisted, “you have my word.” I shook the reins and the horses began to move, my men walking either side of me.
“Do you know anything of Silas’s operation?” I asked the Mohawk woman. “How many men we might expect? The nature of their defences?”
But she said nothing. “You must be pretty important to him if you were given your own escort,” I pressed, and still she ignored me. “I wish you’d trust us . . . though I suppose it’s only natural for you to be wary. So be it.” When she still didn’t answer, I realized my words were wasted, and decided to shut up.
When at last we reached the gates, a guard stepped forward. “Hold,” he said.
I tightened the reins and we drew to a stop, me and my redcoats. Looking past the prisoner, I tipped my hat to the guards: “Evening, gentlemen.”
The sentry was in no mood for pleasantries, I could tell. “State your business,” he said flatly, staring at the Mohawk woman with interested, lustful eyes. She returned his stare with a venomous look of her own.
For a moment I mused that when I’d first arrived in Boston I’d wanted to see what changes British rule had wrought on this country, what effect our governance had had on its people. For the native Mohawk, it was clear to see that any effect had not been for the good. We talked piously of saving this land; instead, we were corrupting it.
I indicated the woman now. “Delivery for Silas,” I said, and the guard nodded, licked his lips then rapped on the door for it to open, for us to trundle slowly forward. Inside, the fort was quiet. We found ourselves near to the battlements, low dark-stone walls where cannons were ranged to look out over Boston, towards the sea, and redcoats with muskets slung over their shoulders patrolled back and forth. The focus of their attention was outside the walls; they feared an attack from the French and, looking down from their battlements, hardly gave us a second glance as we trundled in on our cart and, trying to look as casual as possible, made our way to a secluded section, where the first thing I did was to cut the woman free.
“See? I’m freeing you, just as I said I would. Now, if you’ll allow me to explain . . .”
But her answer was no. With a final glare at me she had leapt from the cart and disappeared into the darkness, leaving me to stare after her with the distinct feeling of unfinished business; wanting to explain myself to her; wanting to spend more time with her.
Thomas went to go after her, but I stopped him. “Let her go,” I said.
“But she’ll give us away,” he protested.
I looked at where she had been—already she was a memory, a ghost. “No, she won’t,” I said, and got down, casting a look around to make sure we were alone in the quadrangle then gathering the others to give them their orders: free the captives and avoid detection. They nodded grimly, each of them committed to the task.
“What of Silas?” asked Benjamin.
I thought of the snickering man I had seen at the warehouse, who had left Benjamin to the mercy of Cutter. I remembered Benjamin’s pledge to have his head, and looked at my friend now. “He dies,” I said.
I watched as the men melted away into the night, and decided to keep a close watch on Charles, my pupil. And saw as he approached a group of redcoats and introduced himself. I glanced across the quadrangle to see that Thomas had inveigled himself with another of the patrols. William and John, meanwhile, were walking casually in the direction of a building I thought was probably the stockade, where the prisoners were kept, where a guard was even now shifting and moving to block their way. I looked to check that the other guards were being kept occupied by Charles and Thomas and, when I was satisfied, gave John a surreptitious signal, then saw him exchange a quick word with William as they came to the guard.