Archive for July, 2021

Gray Lace, Part Twelve

Catherine Randolph hides from the resort hunters as well as her own evil-kidnappers from Charleston. Her friends command that she hide under a heavy, hot, tarp and try to breathe.

She hated it, but she went. She hated fleeing like a fugitive, but she valued her life and respected her friends, the Garretts. She hated their order, the necessity of it, and her fear.

The day was unusually beautiful for fall and wasting it under a heavy and smelly canvas wouldn’t be fun. She gave a moment’s thought to running, again, fleeing into the woods and swamps surrounding the lake. Maybe she could find a secluded spot for a swim. It was warm enough, but the voices sent her running to the wagon.

She crawled under the tarp, took a deep clean breath, pulled it back down over her and she listened.

“Mercer, who were they? Who were those dirty ruffians? Were they actually hunting for bear? They sure didn’t look like your typical clientele.”

“Bear? No, not at all. Much to my surprise they were hunting all right, but for a woman.” Mercer’s mean laughter sounded ugly and felt painful. It drowned out the clanging serving dishes and other conversations. “I told them about our hired camp-ladies, but it would cost them double since our numbers are low. They’d some upbringing though, since they thanked me. They did go on to describe that cute little one we found in the kitchen last night.” He turned to the Garretts, “Hey, where’s that pretty little thing you brought with you this season? Did you leave her back at the lake, at the main camp kitchen?”

Catherine froze. She knew the Garretts hated to lie. “Not real sure where’s she gone, Mr. Mercer, sir.”

“That’s fine. We’ll find her or those four we met out on the hunt will beat us to her.” Mercer sneered, “I’d hate to see her when they finish. There’s no fancy private hotel in her future.”

Catherine tasted her salty tears as they landed on her lips. Her time of safety with the Garretts was over. She needed to move on, she needed to run, and she needed a plan to return to Charleston. Her immediate need was some fresh air to breathe.

Mercer turned to Trevor. “Hell, Coffman, you had her last. Would you say she was worth hunting for? Do you want her again?”

The sound of Trevor’s stable British accent calmed her like a fresh lake breeze. “Mr. Mercer, I came for a trophy for my library. I doubt that she’d suffice. Truly sir, I came to hunt for your famous southern black bear.” She imagined him turning his back and suitably ending the discussion. No additional British accents were heard, just dishes, silverware, the liquid flowing into goblets, and Mercer’s continued evilness.

“I don’t know, Coffman, her head would look great in many places.” Catherine physically shuddered at Mercer’s raunchy comment.

She sweated for nearly an hour listening for clues, locations, and appropriate times for escape. Gradually the clues added up and she sensed that the hunters had finished their their lunch and moved off. One of them had the gall to relieve himself on the wagon wheel. She smelled his urine and heard his sigh of pleasure.

Her legs and arms began to cramp just as the Garretts pulled up the tarp and provided crisp and appreciated oxygen. “They’ve gone, but stay down on the far side just in case one of them wanders back.”

Catherine slowly moved her pins-and-needled limbs over the side. “I’ll carefully head back, and I’ll stick to the side of the road.”

Joann gently held her face. “Be oh so very careful, girl.” She pulled her into a motherly hug. “Listen for the men and hide in the bushes if you must. We’ll find you on the way back.”

Egad and Enough! For Now

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Gray Lace, Part Eleven

“Calm down, please, the both of you.” Catherine smoothed her skirt to give her nervousness an outlet. She leaned over Joann and took the reigns from Ross to get the team of mules moving again. Once the mules obeyed and the wooden wagon bumbled over the uneven road, she attempted to explain in an edited version of her previous evening. “I was lucky. Mercer gave me to a rare gentleman, and I left. I didn’t need to say a word.”

Catherine felt the mules’ muscles twitch through the reigns when Ross loudly release a sigh of fear and frustration. “Mercer, Good God! We need to keep you ladies away from him! He’s mean. Really Bad!”

“It’ll be difficult staying away from the camp boss. How will we get paid, get the order numbers?” Joann’s hands bunched the fabric of her apron. “What if he comes into the kitchens again? He often does, you know.”

“I’ll handle all that, the money business. If he does come in, Joann, you say as little as possible, but we really need to keep Miss Mute, here, out of sight.” He took the reigns back and slapped them in anger, giving the mules another scare. “He wanted you, Catherine, for more nastiness than you can imagine. I know what goes on in that lodge. You’ve seen those women when we serve the late afternoon buffet. Have you noticed they never appear for breakfast? They’re too exhausted from their work the night before.” By the time Ross had finished his sermon, his voice had strained back into an anger that had the mules jumpy again.

He directed the team into a clearing and stopped the ladies from their descent from the wagon with a hand signal. “I mean it. I know you’ve seen those those camp b…, I mean women, those hired camp followers. They’re tarts!”

“Ross, you’re frightening us,” Joann put a calming hand on his sleeve.

“Good. Catherine, did he force you to go with one of his guest hunters? Did he?”

She heard the anger, but she recognized the concern. She read the protectiveness and she was grateful. “Yes, sir, but like I said, I was lucky. A real gentleman came forward. I was given his room key and during his dinner I left him a note.” She jumped down from the wagon to the ground and turned to look back and up at her saviors. “I saw him again this morning for just a minute.” She gazed away and mumbled, “He was kind.”

“Kind?” Ross grunted a disbelieving sound, “Maybe he’s slow, stupid, or strange. Miss Catherine, he and the others, they’re like that ugly bunch who had you in town.”

She shuttered at the sharp memory. She felt her stomach muscles clinch in pain from her residual fear. Those attackers had surrounded her with a nastiness. They had descriptively told her how they would enjoy her before returning her to her step-father. They were determined to have their fun before forcing her back to Charleston. They had spelled out in verbal graphics what their individual preferences were and how they would enjoy watching each other’s pleasures in their sport of rape. During all of this, they had not touched her on the outside, but they had damaged her soul.

The Garretts had rescued her in many ways.

She had learned to trust her rescuers and she had retaught herself to breathe, but her insides still hurt. “Yes, of course, you’re right. I’ll stay hidden.” She marched to the back of the wagon and relaxed her fingers enough to pull the poles out for the picnic tent. Together the three of them had the small shelter erected over a luncheon that served sliced meats, cheeses, and fancy muffins. All types of fruited jams were displayed on silver trays. Desserts with lots of coveted chocolate and vanilla wafers were placed at the end of the long table.

The muffled voices of the hunters approached. “Quickly, Catherine, run back to the wagon. Hide under the tarp,” Ross commanded.

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Gray Lace, Part Ten

Egad!

Catherine Randolph of Charleston has escaped her kidnappers, has hidden in the Carolina swamps, and has become an assistant cook in an hunting resort. The Garretts saved her once and will so again if need be. They warn her against breaking her disguise as a mute simpleton and the dangers of friendliness with the elitist management and guests, for they are all truly hunters.

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Catherine stopped her preparations, turned to her left and then the right to check the location of the other helpers. She didn’t need witnesses. She sighed and admired her friend, her rescuer, “God, Joann, I love you.”

The older woman laughed and sang, “Me too,” followed by a beautiful rendition of Blessed Assurance. A few of the others returned to investigate the positive sounds. “Oh don’t mind me. Shoo! I’ll tell you when to listen to me.” She raised one hand from the mixing bowl and waved, “Oh, wait. I’ve changed my mind. Now’d be good time. Go finish the breakfast cleanup and then get up to the lodge.”

She gave Catherine her new orders about how much to pack for the hunt. Together they managed to get enough bread, cheese, fruit, and whiskey into several large baskets and they loaded it all into the wagon.

Ross Garrett appeared from behind the tent and helped his wife with the larger baskets. “Well, Beautiful, the sun is finally coming out and is glistening on that lovely lake, but you’ve already outshined them both.” He placed three quick kisses on her smiling mouth and spoke to Catherine. “You’re not looking too shabby yourself, missey.”

Catherine returned the warmth with a quick hug and whispered, “Good morning to you, too, Handsome.”

“Oh, your attitude has sweetened up since we found you, but your eyesight’s gone bad.” He laughed as he checked the harnesses and gear attaching the camp’s two mules to the work wagon and climbed up onto the seat. “Come on, women, we’ve got spoiled gents waiting for your delectable delights.”

“What about the mess I left inside His Meaness?” Catherine pointed back to the central kitchentent.

“I’ve ordered Elza and Freddy to finish. They can do it. You trained them, even without saying a word,” Joann laughed.

The women climbed on board. Joann cuddled her husband’s arm and Catherine sat on her other side, having envious thoughts about love and finding someone she could trust. She twitched an eyelid when a handsome face on a true British gentleman appeared in her mind with a startling force. It surprised her. The vision disappeared when her world returned to the gutted dirt road and the back ends of two mules.

“So, Missy Mute, how did you manage to teach Slow Elza and Lazy Freddy how to bake bread and clean up, since you’re supposedly mute? Not that we mind playing along with your little game.” Ross leaned forward over his wife to grin at Catherine.

“She uses her talented hand signals, dear heart,” Joann answered him for their friend and with a worried expression she turned and asked Catherine, “What happened the other night? How did you manage to get away?” She lovingly patted her leg.

“Get away from what?” Ross kept his eyes on a turn in the road, but his brows folded into worry.

“Well, while you were fishing the other night, two of Mercer’s men barged into the kitchen and forced our Catherine to go with them. They dragged her out and headed to the lodge. I tried to follow, but they pushed me away.” She rubbed his arm to sooth him before he exploded.

“Who had his hands on you?” Ross had stopped the mules and glared at both of the ladies. “He had our girl kidnapped? Good God, woman, when were you going to tell me? Chirstmas?”

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