WHEN TIME COLLIDED
By Atonia Walpole
It was decided that John Aubrey would accompany Jack and Maren to London. His late brother William’s solicitor was there and he thought Jack should speak with him.
“His firm has handled the family’s business for generations. There are some papers you should see.”
“All right.” Jack agreed to go, though for what purpose he couldn’t imagine. There was the off chance that he might be able to acquire the money he had banked there. It was a long shot.
“William didn’t have much to disperse when he died other than Ashgrove and the remaining inheritance he’d received from our father. He was only 21 when he died.”
“His death must have been a terrible shock to the family,” Jack said.
“It was. Nobody expects a young man to die but if you go for soldiering that’s what happens. Cannon fodder. Take the most recent war to end all wars. Why half the population of young men died in that one.”
“You obviously escaped.”
“The truth is, Captain, I’ve one leg shorter than the other. You may not have noticed but you see here the sole of my shoe is thicker on the right side. It kept me out of service because they determined I couldn’t march. No…I was never destined for military service. Would it have mattered in the Navy in your time?”
“I think not. You appear to be able to do whatever is required of you and I can’t see what difference an inch or two would make. There’s no call for a march in the Navy.”
“I was too young for the Boer War. William being 12 years my senior was taken without a second glance. I was all prepared for the next one and had my hopes dashed. So, shall we go? I thought we’d go by train. That will be a new experience for you, Captain.”
The train ride was quite an experience for both Jack and Maren. Maren was more at ease than Jack. After a while he settled down and began to notice the changes in the landscape and pointed them out to John. He was warned that London would be nothing like he remembered and John was right. Jack was appalled at the noise and mass of humanity that crowded the train station, the streets with their noisy motor cars and the general population.
“It has exploded since the war,” John said.
They took a cab from the station to the solicitor's office. It was Jack’s first ride in one of those noisy motor cars. “I will say it’s comfortable.” His white-knuckled hands never left the edge of the seat. On this trip to London he wore one of John’s jackets and shirts. He wore his own breeches and boots. John had suggested he cut his hair and Jack had declined. Should he be sent back to his own time, he did not want to appear any different.
Maren wore one of Lillian’s dresses, her shoes and a hat. The shoes were too small and her heels hung over the back. She wore stockings for the first time in her life and found them uncomfortable. Jack was taking it all in stride. Maren was mostly silent. She admired his courage and willingness to adapt. It was harder for her. These people were not her family and since meeting them she hardly had time to speak with Jack alone. She sat in the outer room while Jack and John went in to see the solicitor.
Jack explained himself as best he could. John thought to bring along the miniature and showed it to the solicitor as proof of Jack’s identity. It was a good likeness and had once been owned by Sophie Aubrey.
“There are others, you know,” the solicitor said. “I’ve had three men in here since Monday last. No one understands it.”
“I am at a disadvantage, sir,” Jack said. “I’m not sure why I am here.”
“It’ll be the old papers, Mr. Willis,” John said.
“Right. Give me a moment to collect them.” He left the office to look for the book.
“What sort of papers?” Jack asked.
“It’s a mystery, Captain. William was going to look into it but of course he couldn’t. Our father mentioned it once when talking to William. I overheard and became curious myself. No one knows who this person is who marked a box for you. Whatever it is, it’s in a safe deposit box in the Bank of England. No one in the family has been able to access it because we could not prove a connection. It has to do with signatures.”
Mr. Willis returned with an aged-looking book and opened it. Inside were yellowed and fragile-looking letters and accounts. He found the letter he was looking for and passed it over to Jack. A fragile thing with faded ink in a hand Jack did not recognize.
…to be deposited for safe-keeping until which said Stephen Maturin may return. If he does not return then it is to be given to Admiral Aubrey to do with as he wishes.” Jack looked at the date of the letter. 4 August, 1830.
…I swear by all that is holy this is his wish and is witnessed as below.
Jack’s face went red as a beetroot. He moistened his lips and lay the letter down on the desk.
“Do you know these people?”
“Dr. Stephen Maturin and I sailed together for many years. He is…was my ship's surgeon. Sam…oh. Yes, I know the priest, Father Samuel Panda.” Sam, his illegitimate son got with a native woman in his reckless youth. “Amos Jacob, a doctor and a close friend of Dr. Maturin, I believe. Yes, I know these people but what does this mean, Mr. Willis?”
“It means that whatever lies in the vault at the bank is yours.”
“I can’t think what…Stephen…did not return.”
“Captain, what age would he have been in 1830?”
“Oh…in his seventies…I’m sure…as I would have been a few years past him in age.”
“So this letter is written some 25 years in the future for you back in your time,” John said.
“Yes, I believe you’ve got it, John.”
“Well, why don’t we go see what’s in the box?” John smiled and leaned forward.
“Yes, yes, but why has it not been opened before now? Surely the contents of a safe deposit box would have become part of an inheritance.”
“The box is not in your name, Captain,” Mr. Willis said. “It’s in the name of Samuel Panda. But here,” he produced a piece of yellowed silk, “is a key and the key is to be given to you and to you alone.”
“Then why did I not…I died…is that it? I died before I could claim it.”
“I’m afraid so, Captain.”
“Well, yes, let us find out what has been sitting in a bank for all these years.”
Mr. Willis hastily wrote out a letter of introduction for Jack and with the letter they left the office and hailed a cab. At the bank a box was brought out in a small private room and he was given a key belonging to the bank. Jack opened the box with John and Maren looking over his shoulders.
Inside was another box intricately carved, showing a sailing ship. “My God,” Jack said lifting the box.
“The other key, the one that the priest saved for you,” John urged.
Jack picked up the special key and opened the wooden box. Inside, wrapped in silk, lay something he never thought to see again. “Good lord, it’s the blue peter!”
John gasped. “Is it real?”
“Aye, it’s real. It’s got quite a history behind it. Why…why did he leave it to me?” He realized that Stephen’s daughter Brigid had not survived, otherwise it would have gone to her.
Jack held the blue diamond up where the light caught it and sent prisms of colored lights along the walls of the room.
“Well, Captain, I’d say your financial worries are over,” John said. “May I?”
Jack let him hold it. “It’s the size of a plum. You’ll have to find the right buyer for it. Probably an auction might be the best bet.”
“Sell it? I wouldn’t think of such a thing,” Jack said and took the diamond back. He thought for a moment about his present circumstance. “It might be good collateral for a loan, don’t you think?”
The deal was done and the hotel now belonged to Ben Wade. He collected his sidearm and gunbelt from the Shaw Hotel and unlocked the door to his new life. Leaving his weapons on the front desk, he did a thorough inspection of the property. He didn’t think it was that bad. Sure it needed cleaning up, and a few repairs. As far as updating, he really had no idea what Pete had been talking about. Update to what? What was missing?
Bisbee was a small town and word spread quickly that the Copper Queen Hotel had a new owner. There was the possibility of jobs to be had and before long the unemployed were seeking him out. The hotel was a sprawling complex taking up most of a city block. The grounds were overgrown and the whole place bore the look of years of neglect. Ben had selected a room for himself and with a shaking out of old linens he thought it wasn’t any worse than other places he’d paid money for a sleep. Of course people were different now. He’d already picked up on that fact. The first person who came by looking for employment was a Navajo woman named Shark. She was a maid who had last worked at a Holiday Inn. Ben told her the pay wouldn’t be much until the place was up and running again. That didn’t seem to bother her so he put her to work on the bedrooms.
Blue was the next to arrive, holding a battered-looking tool box. Ben set him to replacing broken window glass and to install new locks on the outside doors. Pete, as promised, had the electricity and water turned on for him. He said he was also trying to contact the man about the gold. Ben was already regretting saying anything about gold to Pete.
One morning Ben walked out on his way to breakfast and found six hippies sleeping in his front garden. He toed one of the males awake. “You can’t sleep here.”
“Oh, man, we weren’t hurtin’ nothing.”
“This ain’t a flop house.”
The man got up, pushing his long hair out of his eyes and rearranging his headband. “We need a place just for a week. Promise we won’t cause any damage.”
Ben looked them over. They were all coming alive now. Young folk, the lot of them. “Do you mind doin’ a little work? You clean up this front yard, make it look pretty and you can sleep inside for a week.”
“You for real, man? Hey, we’re good for that, right guys? Yeah, we got a deal, right?”
Ben raised a brow. “We’ll see what you do today. I don’t care what you do just don’t tear nothin’ up…got it?”
“Just don’t set the law on us, man. We don’t need the hassle.”
“You and me both,” Ben said under his breath. He walked off wondering if he’d done the right thing. Could they be trusted? Of course he didn’t have anything in the hotel worth stealing. His fortune was worn around his waist in a money belt.
Ben entered the Coffee Cup dining room, bypassed the hostess and sat where he’d been sitting the few times he’d been in there. Cora was working today and he smiled up at her as she approached with the coffee pot.
“You look like a man that needs a cup of coffee.”
“You’re a good judge of character, Cora.” He took a sip of the steaming coffee. “I didn’t see you yesterday.”
“I was off yesterday. I get two days off a week. I heard something about you. I knew it was you they were talking about.”
“Yeah, what’d you hear?”
“I heard you bought the Copper Queen Hotel. Is it true?”
“Might be.” He glanced over at a young man with a shock of red hair cleaning a table nearby. He was tossing the dirty plates in the tub and causing a clatter. “Yeah, I bought it. Needs work.”
“I bet it does. What you gonna do with it?”
“Fix it up and then see what happens.”
“Cora, you got tables,” the boy said.
“I’m waitin’ a table, Freddie,” she spat then turned back to Ben. “Are you feeling hungry this morning?”
“Yeah…I am,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “Thing is…is what I’m hungry for on the menu?”
The boy slammed down the tub and turned to Ben with a red face. “Watch your mouth!”
Ben gave him a steely look. “I’m trying to order my breakfast. You got a problem with that? Take it somewhere else.”
“Go on, Freddie. You’re being rude.” Cora waited until he took his tub and backed through the doors to the back of the restaurant. “Sorry about that.”
“Friend of yours?”
“He’d like to be but it ain’t likely to happen.” She sighed and pulled out her ticket book. “Was that two eggs over easy?”
“Whatever you want to bring me, honey.” His eyes locked with hers for a minute. She smiled a little and lifted her chin. His order was placed. He enjoyed flirting with her and who knows, it might lead to something good.
Before the day was over he had the bartender from the Shaw Hotel asking about employment.
“You saw what a dump it was. Don’t nobody come in there but a few local drunks and lost salesmen. I hear you’re gonna bring this place back. I can mix any drink you can think of. Went to bartender school in Phoenix.”
“Bartender school?” Ben chuckled. “I reckon I’m gonna need a bartender but I got to get a liquor license first. Seems there’s a license for everything now.”
“I can help you with that. I know who to see.”
Ben rested against the bar and looked up and down the length of it. It was a nice one and he could visualize it being stocked with good liquor and beer. “When I get ready for you, I’ll let you know. I gotta take this one step at a time Davy.”
“Thanks, Wade. You won’t be sorry.”
Ben walked out the front entrance and looked around. He could see where the hippies had been working. He let out a big sigh…it could all be gone tomorrow. He’d read in the paper over at the Coffee Cup about time travelers showing up in different places. Some stayed and some disappeared again. There were reports of folks disappearing all over the state. One fellow was arrested in Tucson. He’d gone berserk and started shooting random folk. He guessed he was lucky. So far he hadn’t gone over the edge into madness. As far as he knew no one in Bisbee suspected him of being a time traveler. He liked it that way.
He was still musing on the front porch when Shark found him. She had six rooms ready for guests. At her insistence Ben went along to inspect them. The woman had washed windows and laundered everything that could be washed, vacuumed the floors and he couldn’t find a thing to complain about. Shark did.
“You need somebody to do laundry. You got all these rooms and all these sheets and towels that must be laundered daily when the rooms are filled. There is a big washer and dryer here but I cannot clean and do laundry for all these rooms every day.”
Ben rubbed his chin. So far none of the rooms were occupied. “I’ll see about that when the need arises.”
“What about these hippies? I am not to clean after them?”
“Ah, no, no, I don’t think you need to worry about them. I intend to put them on the other side that ain’t been cleaned up. They ain’t paying customers, Shark. They’re workin’ for a place to sleep.”
“They ain’t working. They gettin’ high.” She swished by him. “I’ll be back in the morning.”
Ben frowned and looked after her. What did she mean ‘gettin’ high’? He started to go and find out when the sheriff’s car pulled up at the curb.
“Howdy, Mr. Wade,” the sheriff said. Pete got out on the passenger side and came around the car.
“Wade, we got a meeting with Mr. Holman. Can you come with us now?”
“Now?” Ben looked past him at the sheriff still sitting in the car. “What’s the sheriff got to do with it?”
“Well, you see, he’s related and it was through him that I got the meeting set up. His wife is a niece of old Mr. Holman. He’s gonna give us a ride, that’s all.”
Ben didn’t like it. “How many people have you told about the gold, Pete?”
“Only the sheriff, I swear it.”
“I got a bad feelin’ about this, Pete. All I was interested in was finding somebody to trade gold for spending cash.”
“Mr. Holman is the man. Otherwise you got the assayer over at the Copper Queen office…or you gotta go to Phoenix.” Pete was lighting up a cigarette. “We need to hurry.”
“Gimme a minute.” Ben ran back inside the hotel. In his room he took his gun, loaded it, and stuck it in his belt, out of sight. Pete was leaning on the side of the car when he came back out. “All right, I’m ready.”
As darkness began to gather around the waterfront, Max became uneasy. This was not a good place to be wandering around waiting for trouble to find them. He found a well lighted place with a bonfire going . There were men and women gathered around and they seemed to be happy and having a good time. If he was going to become a thief for the night, he didn’t need Marie with him. He sat her down on a barrel. “Stay here. I’ll be close by.”
Marie smiled and looked around at the gathered company. “All right. Don’t be long, okay?”
Max patted her shoulder and melted into the darkness. He wandered along, eyeing a few sleeping sailors and kept going. Something would present itself eventually. He kept looking over his shoulder to make sure she was still there. She was clapping time to some tune they were singing. He bumped into a fellow in a dark cloak.
“Oh, sorry,” he said before he thought about the language.
The man stopped and looked at him. “English. Who are you?”
“Er, Max Skinner. Who are you?”
“Paul Calvados…where do you come from?”
“From London but I…you…you’re lost here too?”
“From Rome. I came over the Med a month ago.”
“The Med…oh, you sailed…or did you fly?”
“Sailed.” He looked up and down the street and pulled Max aside. “I’ve been here for two months.”
“Months! You mean…there’s no going back?”
“I do not know. All I know is how to survive day to day.”
“How, how do you survive without funds?”
The man opened his cloak and hung about him were various bags and ropes of pearls and other stones. “I sell things.”
“Where did you get them?”
“Some I brought with me, some I have acquired. What are your plans?”
“To get back to England.”
“Good luck with that. You’ve a long journey.”
“I know. The problem is, I haven’t enough coin to get me anywhere. I got passage to Castile and from there I have no idea. The problem is, I can’t afford to stay here for three days and then pay passage on a ship. I’m not alone. There’s a lady with me.”
“Don’t pay these pirates anything. You’d do better to go across land, taking the rivers where you can. Believe me, I know, these people are not trustworthy. Tried to steal me blind before I landed here. You might try and sell something. What have you got?”
“Nothing but these stolen clothes on my back…oh, I’ve got this.” Max removed his wristwatch.”
“A timepiece, fascinating. I’ll buy it from you.”
“Can I trust you? I’m not up on the exchange rate around here. What year are you from?”
“This will buy you a few days…living high or you can find a four-legged beast to carry you across country.”
“I’ll need two, there’s the lady.”
“Horses are expensive. All right, take this…maybe you can sell it somewhere.” He gave him a large pearl. “Don’t ask.”
“I wouldn’t think of it. Where are you from originally?”
“Were you a thief there too?”
Paul smiled broadly. “A damned good one too.” He closed up his cloak and hunched his shoulders. “A word of warning, stay to yourself, don’t try to mix in with the locals. They’re a suspicious lot. Everything is an omen and anything different is the devil's work. You’ll be different.”
“Thanks for the warning.”
“And don’t drink the water…you don’t know where it’s been.”
“What about you? Where will you go?”
He spread his arms. “Who knows?”
“Who’s King of England?” Max called after him.
“Henry V. Get yourself to Normandy. The Brits own it.”
Max watched him walk down the cobbled street. Two months he’d been here…was there no hope of…Marie, he remembered. Max turned and jogged back up the street, making a turn around the curved building. The merrymakers were no longer making merry. There was a fight going on and no sign of Marie. He heard a scream and ran into a doorway. A man was trying to take her up the stairs.
“You there!” he yelled in French. “Unhand that woman! She belongs to me.”
“Max!” Marie answered his yell and kicked her would-be lover. He let her go and she ran to Max. “He was going to…” She buried her face in his cloak.
“Let’s get out of here.” Max held onto her and drew his sword, backing out of the doorway.
They ran towards the darkened end of the quay and through a narrow alley. Luck was with them. Behind an inn was a courtyard with a stable. Holding onto her hand, Max led them into the yard. There didn’t appear to be anyone about. “Do you ride?” he asked in whisper.
“Yes, do you?”
“No,” he answered. He was going to learn quickly.
An old one-eyed man came stumbling out of the stable. He said something in gibberish and Max pointed to a dark horse. Max glanced at Marie as the horse was led out in the yard and a blanket thrown over his back. Marie suggested a three legged stool to help him mount. Somehow he got himself astride the horse. The old man helped her mount a smaller gray. He waved goodbye and fell back into a stall.
Marie took the reins from Max and led them out into the alley. “Hold on with your knees, pull left or right on the reins to go in that direction.”
“How do I make him go?”
She smacked his horse’s rump and it set off. Marie rode beside him and then in front, giving his horse direction. “Where are we going?” she asked over her shoulder.
“Normandy,” he replied. “I have no idea how to get there. It’s northish I think.” Max was concentrating on staying on his horse. “Aren’t you supposed to have a saddle or something?”
Once out of Marseilles they found a road heading north and it was easier going. Max was getting the hang of the horse’s motion and began to pay attention to their surroundings. “If we come across an inn that looks halfway decent we should stop for the night.”
“How far do you want to travel before we start looking?”
“Well, as we are away from the city anything that comes up is worth a look.” They were traveling by moonlight and a bright full moon it was. Still, without lights the countryside was a dark and dangerous-looking place. Max didn’t fancy traveling at night because he couldn’t see and they were vulnerable to highwaymen.
A distant light proved to be a wayside inn. As soon as they were inside the landlord doused the torch from the doorway. There was one narrow bed of straw. Max let Marie take it and he spread his cloak on the floor, lying awake most of the night. The room was occupied by four other people all in various stages of sleep with its accompanying noises.
The next morning they had a breakfast of warm beer and brown bread. Max actually felt queasy when he stepped outside. The other travelers were all leaving by whatever means they had arrived. He and Marie waited for their horses to be brought up.
“What’s this?” Max said aloud in English. He’d been brought a mule.
“I think we’ve been robbed,” Marie answered and then turned on the landlord’s stable boy and let him have a sprate of French that Max couldn’t follow. “He says he is sorry but he only gives out the mounts to those that ask for them. He didn’t know.”
Max went back to the stables and had a look. Only one small donkey was left. “Well, that’s a bloody lesson. You can’t trust anybody with anything.” He grabbed the mule’s reins. “He can’t possibly carry us both.”
“Get on board, Max. If he falters then you can walk,” Marie said and stepped up on the mounting stool.
John Aubrey was shocked to hear Jack reject the idea of selling the blue diamond. Maren took a practical approach and asked to speak with him alone. John left the private room.
Jack was still turning the diamond over in his hands, letting his memories of it turn over in his mind. Maren pulled out a chair and sat beside him.
“Listen to me, Captain. I see you have some sentimental attachment to this stone. You should think of your present circumstances. You speak of a loan. How do you expect to repay a loan in this day and time? You are a sea captain from the Napoleonic wars. Napoleon is dead, the war is over. Perhaps the age of sail is over. These things I know from ancient history. There was something called the industrial revolution. It has already happened, Captain. What I am trying to say to you is that your line of work is no longer relevant. You must think of how you can support yourself. If you sell this diamond you will have the funds to bring your home back to some state of livability. There is the farmland you can farm…maybe.”
“You are telling me that I am no longer relevant to this world. I am a dinosaur?”
“I am saying put aside the sentiment. The people you knew, the one who gave you this stone, are long dead. Your selling it now will allow you to live where you find yourself.”
“I could not live with myself, should this time slippage be corrected and I sent back to my time knowing I had sold this stone, knowing what it means to Stephen and to Diana.”
“If you go back in time again, then the stone will be wherever it was when you left. This sale will not have happened. Do you understand what I am saying?”
“Yes.” He understood perfectly. He didn’t like it.
“I suppose you could live off your great grandson. I am sure he would be happy to support you.”
Jack flashed her a blue look.
“I make you angry. I am sorry. I am sorry for you and for me. I only wanted you to see plainly where you are right now.”
He pressed the stone to his lips and then carefully wrapped it back in the silk and placed it in its box. “You are right, of course. I would keep it if I thought…but I cannot. If I am to live here, as you say, then I must have funds and I have nothing else, no other means of support. I am not angry with you.”
She nodded and then stood up. Moving away from him she exited the room. Jack stood up and paced around the table with his hands joined behind his back. That stone had seen him and Stephen out of many an impossible situation. Was he not in another impossible situation? Well, then, let it go. He couldn’t eat it or wear it. It would not shelter him from the elements…let it go.
Though John advised against it, Jack took the diamond with him. He would keep it as long as he was able to. Mr. Willis, the solicitor, would arrange for the auction at Sotheby's. Meanwhile, John invited Jack to dine and stay at his club. It was an inherited membership. John rarely traveled to London. Jack looked at Maren, who appeared to be lost in more ways than one. He had not given her the attention she deserved. She was a time traveler as he was and all this time he’d been thinking of his own interests and had given little thought to hers. He accepted John’s invitation for dinner and accommodation but he wanted to spend some time with Maren. John said he’d see the solicitor about the auction and they’d meet up later. John had little time for Maren, she being such an odd sort.
“What is this place?” she asked.
“St. James Park,” Jack replied, walking beside her. “It belongs to the King, who they tell me is George V.”
“Is he a good king?”
“I’ve no idea. I have no connection to present royalty. I’ve been remiss in not asking you of your plans…rather selfish of me. This whole thing is overwhelming.”
“Yes, it is overwhelming. Though you will settle in, Captain. You’ve family to help you along.”
“About you, I’m asking about you.”
“Did this park once belong to St. James?”
“It belongs to the King. Maren…”
She flashed a rare smile. “Sorry if I am avoiding an answer. It is because I haven’t one. You must see that I do not fit into this world. It’s not so far out for you but for me…I don’t know how to live in this time.”
“You could learn.”
“Perhaps I’ll become a wanderer until Time is repaired.”
“Do you think it will be?”
“I’m sure it will be fixed. You cannot imagine the technology that we possess in my world.”
“I’m sure I couldn’t. If you have so much technology why tilt the earth? Couldn’t you do something else to avoid collision with this asteroid?”
“We tried to shoot it out of the sky, tried to vaporize it. You could not count the cost to attempt such a feat. We missed…missed by several hundreds of miles. It was a one shot deal, Captain. We had no other choice then but to bring the earth to a standstill and shift it. It was only months later that we realized what such a maneuver had cost. Time was skewed. Better Time be skewed than lose our planet and life as we know it. Time runs in a circle, did you know?”
Jack shook his head. “There are things I probably don’t want or need to know, Maren. However, be it a circle then that brings us back to you. You have not said what you wish to do. I think you do not know what you will do and so I will make this offer, which I hope you will accept. I will understand if not…stay with me. If the blue peter sells for anything like John thinks it will, then Ashgrove will be restored. It can be made livable in a short time, I believe. You have seen the size of it…plenty of room.”
“You want me to live as a kept woman…with you?” She was offended.
“I beg your pardon, Maren. Kept woman brings to mind nothing like I offered to you. You are a stranger here and I offer you a place to live…nothing more.”
She covered her face and stopped, turning away from him. “You do not understand how this is for me. I am a loner, Captain. I live alone and I work alone. I am one of an army of guards that patrol the world monetary bank. I have no time for…parks.” She spoke bitterly. “My job is to kill any and all intruders. That is what I am, what I trained to be. I am not a woman as you know women. I can never fit in here…I have no wish to.”
“Then you will drown in your own misery. I have no wish to be here either. I’d rather be at Ashgrove with my children and my wife. I understand how it is and so I must make the best of it. I have no other choice and neither do you. The invitation is open and will remain so.” He walked away from her.
“You’re trying to reconstruct what you have lost,” she called after him stopping him in his tracks. ‘What then, Captain, when you have your precious Ashgrove restored? It will still be an empty house. You cannot bring back the dead.”
“It is the only thing I can hold onto, the only thing that is left to me of the life I know.” He turned around to see her walking towards him. “I can help you if you’ll let me.”
She looked up at him. “I’m afraid of you.”
“Why, what have I done?”
“I don’t know why.” She didn’t know why she was coming apart. All her pieces were breaking up and scattering. There were tears on her cheeks. She never cried.
Female tears were always his undoing. He found a handkerchief and handed it to her. “If I have offended you in any way…”
“No, you have not. You have been nothing but honest and good to me. It is the goodness, Captain, that I find so hard to…accept.”
“Well, you will have to get used to it. Come, let us find a cup of tea.” He offered her his arm and she looked at it a moment before slipping her hand over his arm. He couldn’t imagine the life she’d come from. What sort of world could produce a fine looking woman so unused to kindness?
“Evenin’ Sheriff,” Ben said, sliding into the passenger seat of the squad car. He let Pete take the back seat behind the cage. He had an aversion to cages.
“Mr. Wade. I hear you’re in the hotel business now?”
“Looks that way.”
“We gotta little ride ahead of us. Mr. Holman lives up there atop Chihuahua Hill. Though, I reckon he won’t be living there long.”
“I heard the mine is gonna shut down.”
“Yeah, the Lavender Pit is all they got goin’ now. Shame…that ol' Copper Queen is what made Bisbee. Mine shuts down a feller’s gotta wonder what use is a big ol' hotel?”
“You never know, Sheriff. This town won’t die out.”
“Huh, I hope not. A word about Mr. Holman, don’t get him excited. The man’s about to kick the bucket.”
“That right? Then a feller’s gotta wonder why he’s interested in buying gold?”
“'Cause it’s gold,” the sheriff laughed. “He’s like ol' Midas sittin’ up there in his adobe.”
The adobe house set up on the side of Chihuahua Hill overlooking Bisbee. Lights blazed in the courtyard where the sheriff parked on a gravel drive. A man dressed in a western style suit let them in and directed them towards Mr. Holman’s office. All three came inside for a moment. Ben’s eyes went directly to the little man behind the big shiny copper desk. He reminded Ben of a pale frog, nearly bald with a fringe of white hair, a pale face, heavy-lidded eyes and a wide lipless mouth. He was standing and barely cleared the desk with his shoulders.
“Mr. Holman, this is Ben Wade,” the sheriff said. “He’s the one I told you about with the gold for sale.”
Ben dipped his head in Holman’s direction. Mr. Holman looked at him for a moment and then motioned for the other two to leave them. “I’ll talk to him,” he said.
The man in the western suit stayed behind, closing the door and standing in front of it. Ben figured he was an armed guard of some sort.
“Have a seat, Mr. Wade.” Holman carefully set himself down on a chair and picked up his oxygen mask for a moment before continuing. “What have you got for me?” he wheezed.
Ben brought out a purse that he’d filled with various coins from his money belt. He’d counted out about $2,000. That would have been the worth in his time but he was curious as to what it would bring in 1969.
Mr. Holman spent some time arranging the coins, picking them up and examining them under his desk lamp. He bit into one and ran his fingers over the pile before pulling a scale over to the middle of his desk.
“Where did you get this gold, Mr. Wade?”
“It was a gift.”
“A gift…from who? Who has this kind of gold anymore? You know the government don’t allow it. Where did you get it?”
Ben turned his hat in his hand. “Where do you think I got it? I say it was a gift from a long dead fellow who had no need of it anymore.”
Mr. Holman pushed his spectacles up on his nose and looked across at Ben. “Once in a great while some cowboy will find a stash. That what you did? It don’t matter much to me. I was just curious. These coins are over a 100 years old, some older. Most collectors would have kept them and most outlaws would have melted them down. I collect.”
“All I want is a fair price. I need to turn gold into cash that I can spend,” Ben said.
Mr. Holman finished weighing up the coins and worked out a price. “10,000.00. That’s a fair price.”
Ben’s jaw dropped but he quickly recovered himself. “All right, you know more about the value than I do. I’ll take it.”
Mr. Holman called the man from the door to bring him his check book. “You can deposit this in the bank tomorrow, Mr. Wade.” He slid a signed check across the table. “If you come upon some more of this stash, I’ll deal with you again.”
“Thanks, I appreciate it,” Ben said and stood up. He went to shake the man’s hand but the man kept his hands on the table.
“Nothing personal,” Holman said. “I don’t shake hands. By the way, Pete and the Sheriff will probably want a little compensation for their trouble. You should know that, I think.”
“Yeah, sure,” Ben answered and turned towards the door. “Been a pleasure.”
He was joined outside the entrance by the sheriff and Pete. They’d been smoking cigarettes and Ben exited in a cloud of smoke. He waved a hand around to clear the air.
“Did he do right by ya?” Pete wanted to know.
“I got no problems with the arrangement,” Ben replied and started for the car. “Soon as his check clears, I’ll take care of you boys.”
“Now, that ain’t necessary,” the sheriff said. “But if you want to contribute I won’t complain.”
“Least I can do for putting me onto ol' Holman.” Ben liked to take care of folks that took care of him, but he did think these two were a little too eager and a little too interested in his gold. He resolved to say nothing else about what he had or didn’t have. As far as they were concerned, he’d sold it all to Holman. The car started back down the mountain. Ben was uneasy riding in a car especially with someone else doing the driving. He wondered to himself how hard it would be to learn to drive one of these things. Couldn’t be much harder than a buckboard team at full tilt.
Cora finished her shift at the Coffee Cup Diner and drove by the Copper Queen Hotel. She stopped a few car lengths past, watching Ben exit from the sheriff’s car. She hoped he wasn’t in trouble. Something about Ben Wade said he was capable of trouble and instead of repelling her, she was drawn to him. Bad boys always did interest her.
The sheriff drove away and she parked and walked back to the hotel. Ben was in the lobby when she opened the door. “You open for business?”
“Hello there, Cora. I’m waitin’ on a liquor license then I’m gonna open. I’ll have a grand opening…do it up right. However, I do have a few bottles behind the bar. Buy you a drink?”
“I wouldn’t mind one. Been a long time since I set foot in here. It looks nice, real nice.” She followed him into the bar. “You got big plans for this old place.”
“I got plans, don’t know how big they are. What will you have, Cora?” He set a few bottles up on the bar.
“Bourbon and water will be fine. I saw you gettin’ out of the law’s car. You in trouble?”
“No, at least I don’t think so.” He gave her a dazzling smile. “Are you lookin’ for trouble, Cora?”
“If I was, I think I know where to look. I’m glad you’ve decided to stay. Where’d you come from anyhow?”
“Oh, I was in Yuma for awhile.” No need to go into details about his accommodations in Yuma. He wondered if they still operated a prison there. “I heard something about you. I heard your daddy’s a rich man and that you don’t talk to him.”
“You heard right. We parted ways a long time ago. He’s a hard man. I don’t need him.”
“I don’t want no trouble with him,” Ben said.
“For what? Talking to me? Huh, don’t worry about that. He’s so far up his pretty little hooker-wife’s butt that he don’t even remember he’s got a daughter. Besides, I’m of age, Ben. I’m twenty-six years old. You’d do well to stop listening to gossip about me. I take care of myself.”
“They pay you good over at the Coffee Cup?”
“I work for tips and $1.00 an hour. I manage.” She took a sip of her drink and tried not to meet his eyes. He was too tempting, tempting with a capital T that stands for Trouble.
“Once I get this place goin’ come and see me. I can do better than what you’re making now.”
“I might just do that,” she said, looking around the bar. “Are you going to get the kitchen up and running?”
“Maybe, if folks get hungry.” He was teasing her. “I expect I will.”
She finished her drink and he offered her another. “No, not tonight. Thanks, Ben.”
“I’m serious about that job. Let me know when you’re ready.”
She did meet his eyes for a moment and then turned away. “G’night, Ben Wade.”
Paris was unrecognizable. Max entered the walled city and was immediately confronted with a stench that turned his stomach. Navigating through the narrow streets filled with filth was no easy task. He and Marie were both on horseback again. Having learned his lesson early, they rose at dawn and claimed good mounts at another wayside inn which they were able to hold onto for the duration of their trip.
“Max, where are we going?” Marie pulled her skirts from a street urchin’s hand and urged her mount closer to Max’s.
“I wish I knew. Hopefully we shall find some English-speaking person about.” Max really had no idea and over the past few days he’d questioned his mental state. What did he really hope to find in England? If he made it, by some chance, to London it would look much like the Paris he was experiencing right now. He sighed and pulled his horse up. They’d come to a large square consisting of a dirty marketplace, stalls set about, dogs and pigs running amok. Across the square he did see something familiar. “The Louvre! By God, it is!”
Marie came up beside him. “I don’t suppose the Mona Lisa is in there. Oh, Max, what are we going to do?” Her attention went to a stall with some sort of pies for sale. She slipped from her horse and bought two, handing one up to Max.
“What is it? I mean, what’s inside it?”
“Does it matter?” Marie bit into hers. “Not bad, a little bland but edible.”
“It’s a pork pie with onions,” Max declared and continued swallowing the tasty pie. He hadn’t realized how hungry he was. Food had been mostly stews, bread and cheese and occasionally a sausage. He dismounted and led his horse alongside Marie.
“Max, whose flag is flying over there at the Louvre?”
“England. That’s Henry’s flag. Well, he’s arrived.”
With a few more purchases they had a meal and looked for a place to consume it. Some benches were set up outside a tavern and they sat down to drink the bottle of wine and finish their meal. While sitting there a man came out of the tavern and turned the corner. Only a moment later Max heard a healthy stream hitting the side of the building. He closed his eyes and swallowed carefully.
“Day to ya,” the man said, still adjusting his clothes as he passed them by.
“Hoy, you’re English?” Max stood up.
“Aye, an' it would appear I’m French as well. You…where do you come from?”
Aware of his modern accent, Max continued. “London. I’m looking to get back there.”
“As are we all. I reckon we’ll be sailing when the King’s ready to sail.”
“You’re a part of his, um, army?”
“Aye, and you?”
“Not military at all. I’m a…money changer, um banker.”
The man looked at him strangely, went inside and came back with his tankard and sat down heavily on the bench. Marie moved over as far as she could, giving Max a little elbow room.
“Money changer, eh? Thought they were all Jews. You Jewish?”
“No.” Max popped a slice of cheese into his mouth. “I’m an English money changer.”
“Reason I asked is the mad King got rid of them here in Paris…sent them all to the hinterlands.”
“Mad…you say he’s mad?”
“Mad as a horsefly. King Henry’s married his sister, you know.”
“Hmm, any idea when he plans to return to England?”
“Well, if a fellow was looking to return…say…soon, what are his options, what’s the best way to get there?”
“Heh, by ship.” The man turned and laughed at him. “Unless you can walk on water.”
“I rather thought that but how does one go about it? Where’s the best port of exit?”
“You sure talk funny. Wal…I reckon Normandy since there’s shipping going back and forth.”
“Right…Normandy.” Max took a long drink from the bottle and handed it to Marie. “Any idea of the cost?”
“Nope, I travel with the army and we don’t have a cost.”
“We’ve only just arrived here and need accommodations for a night or two.”
“Can’t help you with that, though there’s a clean establishment down that street over there. Some English stay there but mind you, keep a low profile. All these French are not so happy to see our flag over the palace. They don’t bother us, King’s Army, but you might be a target.”
Max wasn’t looking to become a part of the King’s army or anybody’s target. “Thanks, you’ve been most helpful.” He glanced at Marie to see if she was ready to try their luck down the street.
She nodded, meeting his eye.
“Oh, bye the bye, where is the King at present?”
“Enjoying his bride,” the man sneered. “Though I do hear we may be on the move soon. He’ll want to be taking her back to Westminster for crowning.”
Max was trying to remember his history but it kept being twisted up with Shakespeare. He thought the king died in France but what year? He nodded to the man and hurried across the square looking for the clean establishment.
Later in a private bedroom, a rarity for travelers, Max sat down on the bed and rubbed his temples. “I can’t remember.”
“Remember what?” Marie sat down beside him.
“What year the king died.”
“It’s 1420, Max. Didn’t he have heirs? Well, then it’s not imminent, is it? He’s only just married. I think we should get down to the coast as soon as it’s practical. The longer we hang about the more money we’re spending. All we have left to sell are my earrings.” She proceeded to take the sparkling dropped diamonds from her ears and placed them in his hand.
“Where did you get these?”
“I had them on when I tripped over the time machine. They’re not worth much.”
“They might be. Hang onto them for awhile. If we need to sell them we will.” He smiled and placed an arm around her shoulders. “I’m sorry for our state. I feel as though I could do better. It’s frustrating.”
“I think you’ve been marvelous.”
“Really?” Max was doubtful. “I seem to blunder along and…”
“No, you’ve been strong and kept us safe. I can’t imagine what would have become of me had I not shared my hiding place.” It was true, a woman alone was as good as sold into some unsavory business.
“I promise to…” His arm slid down to her waist and, being so close, he noticed the curve of her full bottom lip which was slightly parted from its mate, showing her pearly teeth. He suddenly wanted very much to…and so he did.
ON TO PART 13
BACK TO PARTS 1 THROUGH 6
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