Part the Two Hundred Fifty Seventh: A Sudden Encounter
“Oh hell,” Hope muttered.
Her first thoughts, that the worst had happened, fled her. Experience guided her fingers over herself; no dripping blood painted them, and no gaping wounds swallowed them into her. And a few quick inhales told her that her torso was whole.
Finding another body atop her own, however…
With the quickness and strength of panic, her fingers grasped what she could as she rolled over, going from pinned to pinning as she tried to trap whomever laid her low.
Her prey was a girl a few years younger than she, her features blurred in the low light by her dark brown complexion, her long hair splayed out from her head like the dripping blood from a wound. Her eyes widened with panic, and her mouth opened for a threatening scream…
“Shhh, shhhh,” Hope said as she placed her hand over her mouth. “We’re not with them, don’t give us away.”
“Suuldame! Suuldame!” she said through Hope’s hand.
“Suéltame,” Samuel offered. “She wants you to let go of her.”
Osei bent over the girl and started talking to her in Spanish too quickly for Hope the follow. As she ceased to struggle, Hope gradually released her grip, though she continued to hold on to her wrist for insurance. Even when the girl answered his questions, Hope continued to hold on.
“Her name is Nina,” Osei relayed to the rest when he took a break from his conversation with her. “She was part of the group that had planned to make for the open sea,” looking up at the hung men and women.
“Where would she have gone?” Charity asked. “What was-”
“Let’s stick to what is important,” Hope interrupted. “We may not have much time.”
“She’s been on the run and in hiding,” Osei continued, “trying to stay a few paces ahead of repartimiento and his men.”
“De Colera,” Hope said aloud. “How close are they?”
After he asked her, Osei relayed, “She’s been staying a few steps ahead, but every so often they come too close.”
“I see… Offer her the following: In return for guiding us in closer, we can try and thrown them off the trail. We need volunteers to draw off these men, willing to lay a false trail.”
“To make it look like they’re chasing her?” Mason asked.
“If you can, keeping ahead of them.”
“Then I can keep them away from the rest of the lot.”
“So can we,” Redhanded Jack offered. “The boy and I, we can take a second trail off to confuse them further.”
“How would you two do this?” Hope asked.
“Edward and I, we’ve plenty of times where he’d be the bait and I the trap when-”
“Fine,” Hope cut him off, not really wanting to hear more.
“Does he have dogs? Ask her, man,” Mason asked Osei.
When she nodded, Mason took off his shirt to hand to her. “Have her give me her shirt,” he said as he handed his to her. “We need to smell more like each other.”
A change of clothing later, and Jack and Edward headed deeper into the woods, with Mason following a few paces behind.
And with Nina as their guide, the rest hurtled on…
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