A Fortune for the Outlaw's Daughter(8)

By: Lauri Robinson

 “When are you sailing out?” she asked. “In case I want to say goodbye?”

 Trig glanced around at the men doing things with ropes and riggings and such. When his gaze settled on one man, her heart fluttered oddly in her chest. She realized then it was Lucky.

 “To me or my nephew?” Trig asked.

 She’d barely spoken with Lucky, yet she did think a lot about him. Mainly because she was so preoccupied with all his books. He was her route to the gold, and she had to follow it, yet no one could know that. Not Trig, and not Lucky. Shaking her head, she answered, “You of course. I owe you for rescuing me.”

 “Think nothing of it, honey. Besides, Lucky rescued you. My ship just carried you north.”

 “Well,” she said, contemplating the truth of that. An answer settled and she grinned. “You told him to.”

 Trig laughed again. “We’ll be sailing out in three days.”

 Maddie started to count the hours at that very moment. When the time came, it was Trig who walked her down the steep slope created by the drawbridge-type door that was lowered from one side of the boat. He talked amicably about a Mrs. Smother as they walked along the dock then up the stone-lined shore.

 Four blocks from the water—she counted and noted distinct landmarks to find her way back—he led her up a set of steps on a large brick building that, despite the colorful flowers lining the walkway, had every shutter shut as if keeping everything outside out and everything inside in.

 Mrs. Smother was summoned by the older woman who answered Trig’s knock, and soon Maddie was ushered up a set of stairs by the same white-haired lady who’d opened the door while Mrs. Smother, a middle-aged woman with brown hair and faded blue eyes, invited Captain Trig to tea. Maddie had to grin at the thought of the captain drinking tea, but followed the other woman, who introduced herself as Martha.

 Maddie was biding her time of course, she couldn’t just run away, not until the Mary Jane was about to set sail. Martha led her into an extraordinary room. There was a tub for bathing, a commode for, well, necessity and hooks on the wall holding several garments.

 “There’s hot and cold water,” Martha explained. “You can wear anything that fits and leave your dirty clothes in that basket.”

 A thousand questions danced in Maddie’s head, but she didn’t want to sound or look ignorant, so she simply nodded.

 “Do you need any help?”

 “No,” she answered, “thank you. I’ll be fine.”

 Years ago her father had left her to live with one of his lovers—that was what he’d called Roseanne—and there had been a room just for bathing there, though not as elaborate as this. Maddie had learned a lot about life that winter, and men and women, and had been glad when Bass had returned. “Make sure you scrub well,” Martha said. “It looks as if it’s been a while since you’ve bathed.”

 Considering there hadn’t been a creek handy for several days, it had been a while, but the other woman’s tone struck a chord that went beyond that. Maddie held her temper in check and waited until Martha opened the door before suggesting, “I would like to say goodbye to Captain Trig before he leaves.”

 “It would be best if you didn’t,” Martha answered, not unkind, but stern.

 Maddie bit her lips together and smiled. Three days could prove impossible here. A person knew when they weren’t wanted, especially one that hadn’t been wanted since the day she’d been born. It was just as well; she didn’t want to be here, either.

 After her bath, which she figured out just fine, and dressed in a pale blue dress that had fit better than the others—at least she could button the front of this one—Maddie met with Mrs. Smother. She listened and nodded, even answered once in a while, although Maddie had no plans on heeding the “strict set of rules that must be followed at all times.” Not stupid, she remained amicable during the evening meal and completed all of the chores requested of her. Then she waited until the house was quiet before sneaking down the stairs and out the door in Mrs. Smother’s parlor. The other two doors were guarded. Bass had taught her a few things that had turned out to be useful, like stealth.

 A thorough exploration of the docks, which took up most of the night, didn’t provide a place to stay until the Mary Jane sailed, and a fact occurred to Maddie. Mrs. Smother was sure to contact Captain Trig if she came up missing prior to him leaving port, and he might have the ship searched. As she backtracked and sneaked back into Mrs. Smother’s big brick house Maddie pondered how one might possibly board the Mary Jane moments before it sailed. Once again, a few of Bass’s escapades came to mind.

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