Gray Lace, Part 25

Concerning Chapter Five: our characters; Ross, Joann, Trevor, and Catherine, continue their journey from the swamps to the city of Charleston, 150 miles to the south. In my original Gray Lace, each chapter begins with a quote. This one is from Frank A. Clark, “If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably, doesn’t lead anywhere.”

The obstacles are many and my favorite is Killer Chicken. More about him later. For now, Trevor needs a moment to compose himself after killing a creature larger than any on Mr. Mercer’s lodge walls.

As they got to their feet, Trevor smirked, swallowed his self-pride, and asked, “Dinner?”

Catherine zipped her head around from the bear on the ground to him and showed a surprised and thankful expression.

He played the moment. “What? Oh, I’m guessing you don’t know how to skin a bear. That’s fine. Nor do I, but I sure could use a shot of whiskey. Anyone think to bring anyway?”

Ross marched past the women and over to Trevor, while pulling a thin dented flask from his vest pocket. “Have all you want, my good man. Thank you, sincerely. You saved me …us!”

Joann’s arms came from behind Ross and she hugged the stuffing out of him while she cried a song of thankfulness. After taking a healthy swig, Trevor returned the flask with a nod and walked around the affectionate couple. He reached for a frozen Catherine. He had rested his weapon on the ground and braced for her delightful onslaught.

She flew to him. “Trevor, oh my dear God, thank you!”

He wanted to hold on to her for as long as she would allow, but before anymore could be said or enjoyed, another shot barreled through the evening air. They faced the cabin in terror.

Ross held a shaking pistol over the bear’s head. “Sorry, but I had to be sure.” He faced Trevor and worshipped his newest hero. “Thank you, lad, you’re a crack shot. Hunted much?”

Trevor noted the thankfulness and embarrassment in his eyes as he walked toward the bear. “The truth, sir? No, actually I hate guns and admire ,” pausing as he bent to caress the furry head of the large beast at his feet, “most of God’s features.” He choked back a bucket of emotions.

“I’m mighty glad you helped out,” Ross turned to include the ladies as he advised, “Now, those shots might well have been heard as far back as the lodge. We best be going.”

“Wait. What about this magnificent creature?” Trevor hated the sound of his weakness and fear, but damn …then he felt Catherine’s hand on his arm and her gentle tug.

“Trevor, Ross is right. Those shots were heard by everyone within a few miles, including the natives. There’s a settlement not far from here and I assure you, nothing of this animal will waste or rot. Come on now, move. We need to hide and find shelter. The sun’s gone and my Charleston friends might soon be upon us.”

Catherine waited until he stood, then she lifted their bags and headed after the Garretts. They were swallowed by the dusky light and thick swamp underbrush. Trevor retrieved their guns and after giving a respectful nod to the magnificent creature, he followed her.

Egad! & Enough! until next time.

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

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?”


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.

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.

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)

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

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.

Egad! Trevor again attempts to kiss Catherine, before scaring her back up the swampy bluff from the lake and into real danger.

page 36

“That key tickled, now that I think about it. At the time I was terrified of you and well, everyone,” taking a breath, she was went on, “Thank you.” She leaned forward, closer to his cheek.

He sensed her intention, so he adjusted and aimed a bit lower. Hoping she wouldn’t change her mind, he landed on her closed mouth and left a tender kiss. He floated above and over, giving her time, giving her several short pecks on her cheek, eyebrows, and nose. Since she didn’t bolt or slap him, he reached for the brass ring. He returned to her mouth and delightfully found it open, for him. He allowed his tongue to begin a gentle exploration.

She stiffened and her mouth formed a line as straight as the latitude line on a map grid. He wanted to kick himself for frightening her, even that move might have made her scurried away.

While he analyzed that possibility, she did scramble to stand and she reached for the roots protruding from the slippery bluff. She climbed up, using all four lovely limbs. Once she made it to the top, she stopped and turned to stare down at him, and fortunately for his British constitution, his sense of well-being, she smiled and disappeared.

That one smile warmed his heart, his belly, and other surrounding parts. He sat there placing her on his list of blessings. Listening to her retreating footsteps, Trevor enjoyed the remains of the spectacular sunset.

Unitl he heard her scream.

Enough! Until next time.

While mentally reviewing changes in his life, Trevor experiences a flashback from his past. He brings himself back to the present to grasp a sweet vision of his future.


Pages 34-35

The last time he had felt certain was the morning of The Change. He had been chasing his younger brothers through the garden paths. There was security in that memory, but the day of The Change, his grandmother had stepped into his path and blocked his chase, his joy, and as he later discovered, his childhood. She didn’t display her usual naughty-boy-you’ve-been caught look. The sadness on her face slid down his spine when she addressed him as “Your Lordship”. She had always called him Trevor or Dear Coffman. That time she presented him with a formal curtsey. “I have sad news about your father.”

“Mr. Coffman?” Catherine had her hand on his arm and he returned to the present, but his eyes continued to fall into her sensational swampy green pools of peacefulness.

“Trevor. When we’re alone, please, call me Trevor.”

“Should I really?”

“Please, let me hear you say my name.”

After hesitating, her mouth started a warm smile, “Trevor.” Quickly she removed her hand and stiffened. “I shouldn’t, besides we won’t be alone. This is, well, I’m not sure what this is.” She stood and announced, “I need to get back. The Garretts need my help.”

“Garretts? Oh yes, I met Joann Garrett this morning.”

“They’re the cooks. I help them in the kitchens and serving the hunting parties.” After a frustrating sound, she turned and looked at him with a tender fondness and he felt his certainty of falling strengthen.

“Please, don’t go, not yet.” He touched her hand and nudged her back down beside him. He smiled his thankfulness when she bent her knees and sat. “I’m worried about your boss, Mr. Mercer. Don’t let him find again and force his type of employment on you. I might not be able to claim you.” He bowed his head toward her as if to keep the wildlife from hearing. “I might not be available to drop my key again.” He tried a sly grin and he hoped he’d see her smile. When it did appear, he knew she could do better, but he still enjoyed her tiny grin.

Enough! Until Later.

Trevor jumps from analysis-paralysis into positivity. He trades sunsets for kissing and explores the mysteries in his heart before life smacks him upside his head in part eighteen.

Pages 33 and 34

Shaking away strange images coming from the lodge, he moved with furtive steps down the steep, muddy slope hoping not to startle her. That hope disappeared when he snapped every branch he had clung to while trying to avoid a landing with a loud, muddy splash.

She stood and together they sputtered their greetings, apologies, and laughter.

“Hello,” she said.

“Sorry I startled you,” he said.

“No, you didn’t. I heard you coming,” she laughed.

“I hope I didn’t frighten you,” he laughed.

Trevor’s attention was drawn to the scene behind her. “Oh, my God, look!” He whispered. The sunset was not only magnificent, but it had turned the entire lake into a swirl of pinks and blues. A graceful crane dipped low in his flight, searching for his evening dinner.

Catherine had turned to admire it and he heard her draw in a breath of amazement. Without going through his usual analysis, he watched his arms slide around her waist and his hands land gently on her stomach. His head lowered and he placed a sweet kiss below her left ear.

She jumped out of his loose embrace and turned to face him. She slapped her neck where his kiss and briefly rested. Haltingly she explained in a whisper, “Mosquito.” By the time she finished the third drawn out syllable, she had stepped back the same number of steps, then punctuated her statement by falling over a log.

Impetuous, he was never impetuous. Why did he kiss her? His hands were on her waist, for God’s sake!

He rushed to her and offered his hand to assist. “Here now, let me help you up. Are you all right? I’m so very sorry.” He managed to get her to her feet and they gently sat on the offending log together. “Miss Randolph,” he began.

She smiled.

He softened his voice. “I have no idea why I would do that.”

He felt her finger on his lips, effectively stopping his apology. She nearly stopped his breathing.

“You know why.”

Egad! and Enough! Until later.