Archive for September, 2021

Gray Lace, Part 24

Joann leads the others on the unmarked trail through the swamps, keeping the sun behind her or over her right shoulder. Between them and Charleston lay miles of wild vegetation and wilder life; both man and animal.

Joann stopped and silently told them to remain quiet and still. A nearby conversation filtered through the thick hedges and untamed shrubbery.

“Enough boys, I’ve had it already. I’m taking the civilized route and heading back to Plainville for a train to Charleston. Good luck and keep up with them, especially that Earl of Problems. I want him and I’ve paid you for him. I’ll meet you in three days time, noon, on Trent Street at the Cotton Exchange. Good hunting.”

“We don’t take orders from you.”

“You do now. You boys look smart enough to please two bosses.” The pause triggered Catherine’s concern into fear. “Now, get moving. You don’t want to squander this double opportunity.”

Trevor shook his head at the overheard words. Catherine envisioned Edgar Crandfield’s snobby swagger toward the western turn in the road. Her deepening sympathy and her growing empathy had her arm going around Trevor’s waist. Together they waited silently. Hearing the dimming grumbles and complaints from the Charleston Three, Catherine, Trevor, Ross, and Joann waited a few extra minutes, trusting no one to not turn back and then they continued south on their wilderness journey.

Thankful that the sun was their only escort, they checked on her occasionally as she made her westerly descent. The hour before sunset, bread and cheese disappeared along with cold stream water in two shared tins. Catherine thought it was the best meal she had had in quite some time, because of the company.

Releasing exhausted sighs, they sat observing their hotel for the night. It had once been a sturdier structure, but it would serve. “Thank goodness, it’s empty,” Joann commented as she packed up their few leftovers.

“I’m not so sure. Listen,” Ross silently reached for his gun. He pointed to his knife stuck between his boot and sock. Trevor acknowledged the message with a nod. Rumblings and animals grunts came out of the shack as a territorial warning.

Crouching, Ross whispered one word, “Bear”. He signaled for Joann and Catherine to backup and hide, and for Trevor to stay behind him.

Catherine grabbed Joann’s shaking hand. They followed orders, a little bit. Trevor glared at them, but said nothing. The three watched Ross approach the one door. A Carolina black bear, who had shattered any growth charts, decided to protect his formal quarters. He lumbered out at a faster rate than Catherine thought possible and the giant bellowed his opinions of humans.

Catherine dropped her jaw in fear as the bear ran right at them. The giant’s sides rolled in waves as his dark brown fur propelled his mass forward. She admired in fright at his sharp teeth dripping in slobber and marveled at the strength of the bear’s sustained doleful cry. Ross was up on one knee, pointing his weapon and looked to be ready, until his gun jammed, but the mighty hulk fell anyway. At the same moment in fear and time, an unexpected and tremendously close gunshot explosion jolted the insides out of everyone.

Ross came off his knee to a careful stand, but had his knife pulled in case Trevor’s shot hadn’t completed the job. He stared down in the same shock felt by all and listened as the eerie silence of the death of one of God’s magnificent creatures permeated the swampy forest.

Enough! Until next time

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Gray Lace, Part 23

Egad! Now that part 22 has confused you, let’s return to Catherine’s and Trevor’s present time, 1908, swamps of the eastern Carolinas. How will she introduce him to her saviors, the Garretts? Will the swamps help or hinder their plans of escape and safety?

Clanging pots and friendly voices urged them on. The morning light had found them in the lodge and they made use of the crisp but foggy air to approach the kitchen unseen. Catherine checked around the tent flap for Mercer, his men, or heaven forbid, any of the Charleston Four. Of course, she reminded herself, there were only three left. Yesterday’s fright flashed and she was thankful for the outcome.

She saw no one in their kitchen except her beloved friend, Joann. From close behind her newest friend asked, “All clear?”

“Yes”

His hand on her back gently pushed her forward.

“Catherine, oh my, who do we have here, and you’re a mess, child. Look at your hems. Joann brushed off the now dried dirt from Catherine’s muddy bluff adventure, giving herself to think. Her hands landed on her hips and her eyes rested on Catherine’s face. “Dear Heavenly Father, what is it?” Joann gathered the younger woman in her arms, “Where have you been? I heard shots early last evening. Has something happened to you? No, don’t tell me you were found. Did they hurt you?”

Catherine’s worry increased when her friend focused on the man behind her.

Before she could introduce Trevor, make an explanation, or calm her friend, Ross snapped the canvass flap open. “Move quickly ladies,” he stopped and stared at Trevor. A severe stillness overcame him. “I’m sorry sir, but Mr. Mercer’s guests aren’t allowed in the kitchen,” he snapped, “Sir.” He bowed his head in a rapid nod.

“Mercer’s no friend of mine!” Trevor returned the nod and continued, “Please allow me to quickly introduce myself, because time is important. My name is Trevor Coffman, and Miss Randolph needs to leave. Perhaps we could all assist her,” He put his arm around her waist and that seemed to startle everyone.

“No time for explanations. We’re leaving.” Ross glared at Trevor then he looked down at the bag and guns. Studying Catherine’s, he told her, “The Charleston Boys are here and they’re asking questions.”

“Yes, we know,” Catherine bent to pick up her bag and rifle. They had learned to keep small traveling bags and weapons ready.

They used precious moments to wear off a bit of shock by looking around at the blessings they would be giving up; the job, the beauty of the lake just outside the tent, and the safety they thought they had.

Catherine stepped toward the tent opening and turned to face the three most important people since losing her home in Charleston, since her father had suddenly died, and her stepmother married a monster. “Thank you everyone, but this isn’t your problem.”

The three stared back.

She tried again, “I’ll go alone. They don’t want you. Send them north with false information and I’ll go west first. No, I’ll head to Wilmington, east, then to Charleston to keep them guessing. She was babbling and wasting time, but they’d get hurt or worse if they went along to protect her. There certainly weren’t any guarantees that she’d find a solutions to her problems even if they all made it to Charleston.

Ross began calmly, “Joann and I talked this over almost every night since we met you. You’re our daughter now, for as long as you need.” He hung a huge arm across her shoulders. “God sent you to us. Let us help you get home.”

The three took another valuable moment for a hug before dashing away a few tears and walked from the hunting camp’s portable kitchen. Trevor brought up the rear of the line and Catherine turned to give him one last chance to back out. But, he winked. “You need help.”

Enough! More later. hopefully.

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Gray Lace, Part 22

Egad! Writing flashbacks for my characters is not easy. I want to tell you everything Catherine has been through before you met her, but alas, that would be boringly stupid and unnecessary to her story. So, here’s just a bit found on page 42-43. How she met the Garretts:

When Catherine had arrived on the Charleston train in Plainville, she walked along the platform with the other third class passengers. There weren’t many and fewer from the first class carriages. Good, she thought, a small town.

She saw them first. Four of them surveying the passengers. Turning quickly, she marched in the opposite direction and hid behind a cart piled high with luggage and crates. These four had been a nuisance since she escaped from Charleston, but she taken this train and it had switched engines in Dillon, South Carolina. They must have taken a later one.

“There, over there!”

Her long skirts wrapped her legs as she ran. Trying to hang on to carpetbag was the problem. She tripped and they had her surrounded. Her fear had sent sweat dripping into her eyes. She had glanced at her scraped and bloody hands and she felt her knees were in the same shape.

“Now, girly, quit this nonsense and come with us,” his grip on her upper right arm and been painful as he yanked her to her feet.

“Catherine Randolph, your parents want you back,” a hand grabbed her breast, but slowly shifted to her left arm. “Oh, excuse me, my lady,” his sarcasm flowed over her, “perhaps we can have some fun before we return you to your home and Mr. Pettigrew.”

“Shut up, Fred.”

A third man approached and slid his finger down her face. Without thinking, she bit it. The slap was violent and rapid, and it would have brought her to her knees if the first two hadn’t held onto her arms. A fourth voice interrupted. “Let’s get out of here. Fred, remember, our boss’s name is Smith.” He directed them toward a wagon hitched to two powerful mules.

The option of screaming had belatedly arrived in her foggy brain, but as it turned out, the timing was indeed advantageous. Her lungs and vocal cords announced to anyone who cared that she wanted no part of the wagon, those mules, or especially those four goons. A small crowd of concerned citizens surrounded her and her problems and they demanded answers. With a small amount of calculating, the four had started to drag her toward their wagon and they had tried to talk their way around the sudden vocal blockade.

The crowd had something to add to the debate. “Leave her be! She looks like she doesn’t want no part of you boys.” They convincingly raised they fists, clubs, and a few rifles.

Catherine took advantage of the sudden relaxed grip on her arms, scrambled through the group and returned for her dropped bag.

She had been followed by an angel. “This way, young lady, hide under this tarp, up here on this wagon.” The kindness behind the demand had Catherine scooting up and under. “Ross will be right back to help us get out of here as soon as he and the others get rid of your friends.”

Enough! Next time we’ll return to Catherine’s swampy haven and her rescuers.

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Gray Lace, Part 21

Chapter 4, page 39

Egad! With Trevor’s help, Catherine escapes a nightmare. Her question remains; how to stay safe?

The rough tree bark massaged her back as she slid to the ground, allowing fear to liquify into relief. Catherine stared at the assailant dying in front of her. She couldn’t command her eyelids to close on the blood and pain, on the horror and gruesome joy. He had tormented her since Charleston and she reasoned evil thoughts into objective debate. Her limbs shook, but then subsided when Trevor started rubbing her arms during his directions for her to stand. Far too slowly she understood he wanted her to hurry away from the now dead body and bloody scene.

Several shouts came dangerously close. “Hide, quickly Catherine!” The use of her first name snapped through her haze of horror. “They mustn’t find you. Hide over here.” He encouraged her to race across the road toward the lake and down the slippery bluff. She appreciated the tree roots enfolding her decent and the thick cover the brush provided. She hoped she was the only living animal under the cover of vegetation.

“Coffman! Are you all right?” The sounds of a concerned male crashing through the thick growth on the opposite side of the main road wove through the vegetation to Catherine’s terrorized hearing. “We’ve told Mercer time and again to move his target range further back from the lodge.” He had stopped talking with an abruptness that it told Catherine the speaker had found the body.

“Dear God! Who is that? Is he dead? Is that who we heard yell? Dear Lord! What has Cranfield done now?”

“Sir,” Trevor snapped, “do you mean Edgar Cranfield let a shot go wild?”

The hesitation told much, “Wild? Well, Lord Coffman, the only wildness I saw was in his eyes, but I doubt if he meant to hit whoever this is.”

Catherine’s foot slipped from a wet limb. Swallowing her scream, she tightened her grip on the roots protruding above her head. If she fell it would gain unwanted attention from above as well as from the scrambling noise and splashing in the shallow water below. She dug her toes into the moist soil found between the limbs and roots.

“What do you mean? Who do you think he meant to kill?” Catherine winced at the hurt and anger she heard in Trevor’s voice. She had warned him earlier, after the picnic. He shouldn’t have been surprised.

“Look, Coffman, I’m sure he didn’t mean it. It was an accident. Ask him. Here he comes.”

Catherine bit the inside of her cheek and listened to what was being said, confirmed and denied, but guessed there were several men pontificating their own style of witnessing and justice. With that much noise she chanced an escape. Slowly she put her feet into the shallow water at the bottom of the bluff and began edging away from the scene above.

It took several minutes and even more prayers to safely progress forward, trying not to guess what lurked in the tall grasses and weeds. With her eyes closed, she froze every time the sandy lake bottom felt squishier and she listened for the lack of human noise. Hearing none, she scrambled out of the water and up the muddy bank.

The road led to a fork and the turn led to the backdoor of the lodge. Not thinking too terribly much, she scooted inside. Ignoring the few Mercer ladies hanging about, she made it to the back stairs without causing any undue commotion. Thankfully most of the guests and employees were on the front porch watching Trevor and the hunters surround the dead body.

Running up the servants’ stairs, she raced down the long second floor hallway to Trevor’s room. Placing both hands on the door, she spent an expensive moment catching her breath and planning her next move. Reaching for a hairpin, she untwisted it into a straight line and tried to play with the door lock’s mechanics. Sometimes some things work out. She opened his door and closed it. It would not relock so she jammed a straight back chair under the knob, as she had had to do to stop her step-father.

Maybe it would work this time.

Sitting on his single bed, she fought to gather breath and wits. Praying for Trevor, she worried for his safety. Would he even want her here? Testing his pillow with her head, she struggled off her wet shoes and allowed the approaching night’s darkness to calm her bones for just a few minutes.

Enough! (Until next time)

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Author Update

Yes, I am still here, still creating, revising and publishing on WordPress…obviously.

Creations are still bubbling forth on my WIP (work in progress), working title-Countess of Change, still in first draft, but I have progressed to Chapter Seventeen. Planning on 20.

Still revising Gray Lace, progressed to a word count of 60,000. Yes, this is my fourth novel, originally published in 2015. I now own the rights, so I decided to fix my infamous page 178. This is where Catherine Randolph enjoys some she-crab soup. In 2015, she was served a bowl of she-crap. Still nearly as important, there are a few other improvements.

Still publishing the beginnings of Gray Lace Revised.

Still, I thank you, dear readers. Your numbers are increasing.

Now, about Chapter Four, more later, but this is the headline quote by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:

“The bravest are the most tender. The loving are the daring.”

Still…Egad and Enough

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Gray Lace, Part Twenty

At the end of our chapter three Trevor meets the enemy. The certainty he feels for Catherine mixes his attraction with a fear for her safety. Page 36-37

After hearing her screams, he attacked the slippery bluff and made it to the top. He turned left while he bent to swipe off the mud and twigs from his legs, but more importantly, he listened and gathered oxygen and information. He headed forward as male voices were heard among the insect calls and otherwise peaceful evening.

Through the low limbs hanging over the bend in the road, he spied four large men in a semi-circle far too close to Catherine. With her back to a tree, she stared them down with amazing courage, without showing the fear she must have have had inside.

“Come now, Miss Randolph, let’s be on our way. You know the boss wants you back south.”

“Yeah, we’ve chased you through these hellish swamps long enough, my young pretty morsel. It’s back to Charleston with you. Go get her, Mack.” The smallest of the four stepped forward, but then he fell on his face. A shot had erupted the early evening and blood rapidly stained Mack’s already dirty shirt.

Leaving Catherine alone with promises of their return, the remaining three disappeared into the the thick undergrowth.

Trevor stumbled from behind his cover and approached Catherine with soothing phrases, gathered her trembles in his arms, and pledged something ridiculous like, “You’re safe now.” He had no idea where the shot had originated. Who were those men? How did they know her? For heaven’s sake, why did their boss want her in Charleston?

He did know his sense of falling had returned, but falling into what? The only certainty he knew swirled around her safety.

Egad! Enough…until next time.

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