Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Not Smart, Pages 171-173


    “Easy, Mollie,” the dark figure whispered. “Put your hooves down gentle-like. We're not hurryin'.” Clopping across the road, the mare entered the dark shadows of several looming pines. Barely visible in his gray coat, the rider stopped the horse to listen.

     He was not going to let them get him. Captain Parker had wasted his words telling him to be careful. Simon Winsett was no fool. Not by any stretch of imagination. If he had to put a label on himself, maybe he was what townspeople said he was, a schemer. Maybe. Somewhat! Whatever it was that characterized him, he was putting that talent to use.

     He had figured everything out. Move along the road in the shadows and watch for redcoats under trees like the patrol that had gotten Patterson, Loring, and Browner. The three of them had blustered their way into Buckman's yammering and strutting, before Parker had gotten around to asking for the next volunteer. Not knowing it, they had let him know what to expect. Hearing 600 men marching and riding would be easy enough, he believed. It was who they had off the road that he had to worry about.

     The trouble was that the land here was flatter and more open than where Patterson and Loring had ridden. Maybe he couldn't hide himself so much, but he figured he could ride like Lucifer across a pasture if he had to. Find a barn, a clump of trees, a hollow, hell, he'd ….

     He heard behind him the rhythmic footfalls of an approaching horse. “Over there,” he said to Mollie, choosing a broad-based pine to hide behind.

     He hadn't expected anyone on the road coming from that direction! Whoever it was would definitely not be a Lexington man! A lone redcoat? Not likely. The patrol of officers that had grabbed Patterson had galloped through the town not quite an hour ago. Would they have sent somebody up the Bedford road alone? Not hardly.

     What passed him he would not have thought of in a hundred years. An old man in a sulky, going God knows where, without a suspicion of danger. He’d picked the wrong day for an early start to Cambridge or Boston, or wherever he was headed. Likely he was a rich merchant, a Tory probably, soon to experience the startle of his life!

     Simon directed Mollie back onto the road. Not dark enough here, he thought. Not enough trees. A gentle mist, though, was descending. Soon it would be plenty dark.

     Was that what he wanted?

     He guessed he wanted it both ways: bright enough to see the redcoats, too dark for them.

     He was getting jittery. He felt like a dozen redcoats were pointing at him! Ride back fast at the least thing suspicious! he told himself. Decide what to do first!

     He and Mollie continued another quarter mile, he stopping her repeatedly to look and listen, and to watch her ears.

     The predawn mist had dampened his face, hands, and the sleeves of his coat. So what? Should he have brought a towel? As to comfort, what mattered was he was damned hungry! Eggs and sizzling bacon an hour from now would settle that! Which he’d have to cook himself -- back at the family house -- because no one there gave a damn that he was doing something not just for himself!

     Not smart, getting yourself riled. Not smart at all. Keep your mind clear, he chided. The scouts that had gone out before him had gotten themselves caught. Because they’d been careless. Because they had not thought ahead. Which was the way his brother John did things. John, four years younger, ten years less responsible. John, the brother everybody, his family especially, liked! To hell with John! Just go slowly. Stick to your plan. Concentrate. Finish this. Afterward, they’d all damned well better take a better attitude!

     Off to his right something in the undergrowth moved. Simon swung the mare's head about. His heels jabbed. Great God, they had almost gotten him! he thought, looking back seconds later.

     No one came onto the road. He exhaled a long breath. He stared at the empty roadway a full sixty seconds.

     It had not been an ambush. It had been a noise … a raccoon, some nocturnal creature, he figured. After that, his imagination. Still, he had been wise to gallop off. A fool -- his brother -- would have stayed, or kept going, out of laziness, or out of expectation of good luck -- which most of his life John had gotten more than his share!

     Two men darted out of the shadows. Before he was able to react, one of them seized Mollie’s bridle.

     The one directly in front of him wore a scarlet coat!

     “Where d-did you come from?” Simon stuttered, the soldier, three feet away, pointing his pistol.

     “From behind a barn. We watched you the entire way, you effin’ poltroon!”