Part the Two Hundred Fifty Fifth: Preparing to Fly
The branch snapped Hope in the face.
The third one to do so since they came ashore and made their way into the trees, the sting this time was less of a surprise and more easily borne. And all three snapping saplings were preferable to the tiny bites of gnats she did her best to ignore.
“How far are we now?” Turley asked.
“If John of Mersey can be believed,” said Osei, “I’d say we’re over halfway there.”
“Which means we’ve gone how far?”
“A quarter mile.”
“Seems longer somehow,” said Jukes.
“Has anyone entertained the thought,” Hope asked, “that the closer we get to de Colera’s lair, that the less said aloud the better?”
A few murmurs arose as the crew went silent.
Hope paused a step to pull her shirt away from her skin. The moist air hanging over the woods threatened to plaster her clothes to her body; the more she tried to separate cloth from flesh, the less success she found.
Surrendering to the elements, she resumed her march, trying to maintain the silence she asked of the rest-
“Un istant! Look what I found!” said Charity.
Hope rolled her eyes and came over to look.
“This had better be-” Hope said in a low voice before the discovery silenced her.
The brush that had hidden the launch came up to Charity’s waist when they pushed it aside. There were enough provisions inside the craft to displace anyone trying to take a seat along the keel.
“Who’d put a small craft aside with this many goods and hide it?” asked de Rojo.
“It’s rather far from the water’s edge, too,” noted de Barrer. “Doesn’t make sense.”
“Unless you were preparing to leave quietly in a hurry,” noted Samuel. “If you wanted to have something prepared to allow you to leave quickly, this is what you’d do.”
“So who would need to leave so quickly?”
“I can think of a few people who might. The obvious ones would-”
“Slaves,” Osei interrupted.
“Come again?” asked Hope.
“Look at the provisions,” he pointed out as he grabbed a wrapped satchel, its casual covering barely held together by a thin cord. “These are improvised, probably smuggled out this way by a group that is planning to take flight.”
“To where?” asked de Rojo. “They can’t believe that they’d be any safer on the other side of the bay in Santiago than it is here.”
“Unless things are such that even that would be preferable to one more day here.”
“Could that be of some use to us?” Hope asked. “If the slaves are threatening to try to escape, might they keep de Colera’s men busy elsewhere?”
“That depends on whether anyone is trying to make their run when we arrive. If they have a plan they want to stick with, they may not risk their necks for us were we to-”
“Their necks, you say?” Charity asked.
Hope’s eyes followed the annoyed glare that crossed Osei’s face to Charity, who was looking to the side and up into the branches.
Charity commented, “I can see what you mean about the necks,” as Hope finally noted the bodies on the branches…
All content Copyright © 2010 James Ryan