Chapter 6

Written by: Joe Labrum

Matthew saw in her eyes the horror of her act and her confusion about what to do next.  Mary was breathless from running to catch him, to confront him. She clung to his large hand in earnest, trembling more now as her understanding of what she had done became clearer. He stood ready to help the lass, but what need could she have that troubled her so? There was also his own situation to consider. But was he not aided in his own hour of need and did that not require him to pay it forward? The handsome and mysterious young man surveyed Mary’s petite contours until his welcoming eyes found hers. She was calmed by the connection.

“How might I be of service to m’lady?” The words came soft and reassuring.

“The favour I need is more than anyone has a right to ask. It could put you in great jeopardy of your freedom or even your life,” Mary whispered.

She stretched, standing on tip-toes, her lips almost touching his ear as she explained.

The soft yellow glow of the lantern cast a dancing shadow of the two as it swung slowly in the night breeze that stirred the leaves covering the ground. From the lanyard where it hung a hundred yards up the road, their features were indistinguishable from any other couple passing time under a lamppost on a pleasant fall evening.

A passing soldier stopped in front of Mary’s Grandmother’s apparently deserted house. He stood hidden in shadows as he raised his hand to knock, but he didn’t knock. The soldier glanced their way as he searched for a comrade who’d gone missing. He made no notice of the couple.  He decided to continue his search farther down the Close, nearer the market area.

“We must hurry,” Mary urged, “Grandmother will be home soon and the shock of it would surely kill her”.

Mary hooked her arm with Matthew’s holding it tight. They walked swiftly, though careful not to stir curiosity. A final look around the neighbourhood, then they opened the door and were greeted by the smell of death. This will be impossible to explain to Grandmother was her first thought. But ridding the place of the smell seemed a small problem compared to ridding themselves of the body. 

Quickly Matthew grabbed the body under the armpits and raised the torso off the floor. Mary picked up the feet and the two of them dragged the stiffening corpse through the kitchen and out the back door, down several steps and deposited it temporarily behind a laurel hedge. 

Mary’s grandmother returned to find the house full of smoke. The smell of burnt potatoes hung in the air. Mary furiously scrubbed the charred remains of failed potato soup from their only pot.  

*****

The sun began to climb above the horizon as a pair of scavengers sorting through discards by the loch stumbled over a nude body.

Comments

Excellent use of 17th century dialogue and good solid descriptive scene setting. I particularly liked the passage describing the lantern and what effect it had on its surroundings. There is also a carefully disguised air of tension mingled with Mary's feelings. A well-written chapter that held my interest and a good start for the next scene, ensuring a smooth run-on. Nice one, Joe.
I forgot to mention the only little ouch I could see was the soldier looking for a lost comrade. How does anyone know that if the soldier didn't speak? It looks like the writer is just making an assumption. Probably no-one would ever notice that and I am picky so maybe a moot point. Author only serial next, Joe?
Ray, you are correct to mention that and I think I make assumptions like that a lot in my writing. I think I is a good point and I thank you for pointing it out.
Hi Joe, I've read this chapter for the first time now and I agree with Ray's points. The description of the shadow cast by the lantern is superb. The chapter also captures the period and the way you describe light is what makes me think 17th century. Very good.