Chapter 5

Written by: Anna Zhigareva

By four o’clock, it was so dark you could barely see the faces under the top hats and tartan caps hurrying down the High Street. The only light down Regent’s Close was an oil lamp burning with a pungent odour into the darkening alley. This was the time they had agreed on. But there remained one issue. The dead soldier in the corridor, too heavy to carry, and where could they have taken him without attracting unwanted eyes? Mary couldn’t risk anyone calling the watchmen. And her grandmother would be home soon; she hated the uncertainty of the night.

 

They stood outside the door, Phoebe dressed in Mary’s only other plain dress and thin tartan vest, her fair hair hidden under a white cap. She looked neither princess nor servant. An ordinary woman.

 

As Iain’s carriage pulled up, swallowed immediately by the shadows, Mary reached for the handle. A gasp erupted from her parched mouth as a hooded figure emerged from within. 

 

“Don’t fret, sweetheart,” Iain spoke gently. “I do this favour for ye. But there are others, too, that sometimes need to run in the night to be safe. Matthew will be on his way. I will take madam where she needs to go.”

 

Before Mary could reply, Phoebe clambered inside, eager to be out of sight. The carriage door softly shut, a whispered thank you hanging in the air as it rattled off, Iain’s eyes kind as he gave Mary a small, almost invisible nod.

 

Suddenly fear gripped Mary from the inside. She ought to have told Iain! How to get the soldier out now without being seen? The hooded figure had made his way up towards the High Street and stood, as if deliberating, by the weak lamp, before leaving the relative safety of the deserted close. 

 

“Sir?” What was his name? “Matthew?” Mary didn’t know this man, but he was her best chance. If he was fleeing, he would appreciate her assistance.

 

“I can help you,” she spoke urgently against the trembling in her body, “but first you need to help me. Please.”

 

The hood fell back, revealing sharp green eyes and long, black hair. A masculine face of uncanny beauty. And a kind, sorrowful smile. There was no ill-will in it.

 

He approached Mary, taking her hand. “I will gladly be of service to a friend of the man who saved my life.”

 

***

 

The carriage rattled through the mist, the horses snorting loudly in the chilly air. 

 

“Loch Lomond, aye?” Iain raised his voice against the hurl of the wind. “That’s a heck of a trip for a little lady!”

 

“There is someone there waiting for me.”

 

In the grey shadows, unseen and unheard, Phoebe twisted off the gold ring around her finger. She and Richard had loved each other for months.  His last letter had said he waited for her. He would get his wish. The Dutch duke could find another fiancé, Phoebe thought spitefully, and her parents another daughter to torment.

Comments

This is a masterful piece of writing. It has pace, ambience and wonderful characterisation. You make full use of your 500 words with no word wasted. Beautiful to read. The eye glides over the page. Fantastic!
Lovely smooth piece of work. Sorry I'm late in writing this but life throws a brick at me sometimes. This is well described and what makes it special to me is the great balance of dialogue and narrative in that both move the story on and both are full of tension and a little mystery. And what a great insight into this pretty little 'thing's' inner character. Nice one, Anna.