Unmasking what spy?

Unmasking a spy is the final instalment of my short story Garden Secrets which I have been serialising on this blog. I hope you have enjoyed the first three chapters. Now read the fourth. After that, you will be ready for my new novel. Garden Secrets is set in the interval after Highwaypersons,  Book III, The Stallion Man and Highwaypersons Book IV, Blood in the Heather: Rumours, Rebels and Rogues, just published.

 

 

Highwaypersons Book IV: Blood in the Heather: Rumours, Rebels and Rogues by [Geoffrey Monmouth]

Unmasking a spy.

The morning after the debacle of her supposed unmasking of her gardener as a Jacobite spy, Helen kept finding things to do to put off speaking to Hugh. Around noon, Lewis came to her saying the gardener had asked to speak to her. She paced the room before deciding now was as good a time as any for what was bound to be a difficult encounter.

As soon as Helen stepped outside, she saw Hugh washing himself at the pump in the yard. On seeing her, he tried to dry himself on his shirt and looked around awkwardly. She invited him into the kitchen. Cook had gone to the market, thus providing them with somewhere to talk in private. As they sat down she realised this was not an ideal venue, as the air remained hot and steamy from cooking. In fact there was a smell that told of something having been burnt.

“Before you say anything, may I apologise for the misunderstanding that led to that awful confrontation yesterday.”

“Ha, well, mam, we all make mistakes. It was Gwynne – that’s the woman who I tought was auld Mary – she’s the one dat made de biggest mistake, so she was. No wonder she ran off. I mean, it was a real tump she gave yez. Well, two, really. And no need for it. I mean, we wasn’t doing what she tought or anything.” Helen was trying to form her next sentence, when he went on, “Ye know, it’s a pity ye came in when ye did. A little later and we would’ve been finished and no trouble. Of course, I’d only just found out dat she wasn’t as auld as she looked. Well, ye might have seen she didn’t look so auld really, but she’d had me fooled, so she had.”

“You found her attractive?” Helen asked and at once cursed herself. His taste in women was none of her business and she was risking another digression, when she needed to get back to the point. She wondered if she had been jealous of the other woman. But that was ridiculous.

“Ha, well, now, you see, she’s not bad looking. Not if ye like big women, I mean. And she had a nice couple of…”

“Yes. I noticed.”

“Mind you, you’re a rare beauty yerself, so ye are. I don’t know when I’ve seen a better looking woman.”

“Thank you. I am flattered. But I wanted to apologise for yesterday. Oh – I have done, haven’t I?”

“Ye have dat. And, like I say, we all make mistakes. To be honest, I wouldn’t have minded if ye hadn’t had a gun with ye. To be honest, I don’t mind a bit of wrestling with a man or a woman, but ye really had me worried for a bit with yer gun. I’m sorry I had to hurt ye to make ye drop it, but, well, ye know, I was right scared ye was gonna shoot me.”

“I don’t blame you. It was wrong of me. I’m glad you enjoyed some of it. Can we forgive each other now and get over it.”

“Why not? Sure, I was afraid I was gonna lose me job.”

“Oh, no! You won’t. What was the thing about which you wanted to speak to me?”

“Ah, well, not exactly, ye see, I was just tinking, like, had ye found out about me wages? Is it yerself dat’s paying me now, or Mr Evans? With today being Friday an’all, I was getting a bit worried.”

Helen cringed. She had forgotten to ask when she had spoken with the man, due to her reaction on seeing Hugh’s reference.

“I must apologise to you again, as I have omitted to ask. If he does not come with them today, I will pay you myself. Never fear.”

“Oh, no, mam. I only fear when someone’s pointing a gun at me.”

Later that day, Meredith did arrive and responded to Helen’s enquiry by saying, “Ah, yes, indeed madam! Please forgive my inadvertent omission to inform you. I have brought not one but two weeks’ wages for Mr O’Neil, because I shall not be able to come next week, nor for some time hence. Therefore, I must ask you to take over this particular responsibility for a while. I am obliged to spend some time travelling, but I will, of course, write to you from time to time to keep you apprised of any significant matters.”

Helen dreaded the thought of receiving correspondence from a man who appeared to regard the most trivial of matters as significant and who expressed such information with such verbosity. However, she resignedly accompanied him to Hugh’s apartment, where he paid the wages and repeated all he had just explained to her. He finished by saying, “I trust you find Mrs de Clare a good employer and that she for her part finds you a satisfactory employee?”

The Irishman chuckled. “We get on just fine except when she points a gun at me and says I’m Charles Butler. It was only yesterday that we got into what ye might call a bit of a scrap.” Seeing their faces, he added, “Oh, it’s all right now, so it is. We’ve made it up.”

Meredith looked at Helen with raised eyebrows. She recounted the incident in more detail. He let out a laugh. It was not one of his polite chuckles: it was a guffaw. Helen recognised it.

The unmasking

“YOU! It’s you, not him. You’re Charles Butler. Don’t even try to deny it. I know.”

Charles laughed all the more as he took off his wig and unbuttoned his waistcoat, revealing a lot of padding. He then pulled off his false nose. “Well, now I can get out of these hot things. I should have known I couldn’t fool you for long. I couldn’t believe it when I heard you were looking for somewhere to rent. And knowing this was vacant.” He laughed again. When he composed himself, he said, “Did you really think Hugh was me? Wonderful!”

Charles turned to Hugh. “Did you two have a good fight? I wish I’d seen it.”

Helen fumed as she said, “Did you write that reference?”

“Oh, yes. Hugh and I have been friends for a long time. Helped each other out in various ways. He’s never met my father. He needed a bit of help to find employment over here because he was wanted in Ireland. What? Oh, no! He’s not a Jacobite. Just got into a bit of trouble with certain of the authorities. There was a woman involved, of course.”

Hugh looked embarrassed. Helen said, “At least that does not surprise me. But you, Charles Butler, are beyond the Pale. How devious can you get? Well, what now? Are you going to kill me to ensure my silence?”

“I suppose nothing less would silence you. But do not fear. As I said, I am about to go travelling and I need you to stay here for a couple of hours before you raise the hue and cry, as you doubtless will.” He turned to Hugh. “I trust I can rely on you to detain this lady for a while?”

Hugh said, “It’ll be a pleasure. But I can’t tell the time. How do I know how long to keep her?”

“Let’s say until it gets dark. I’ll be well away by then.” Turning to Helen, he said, “I hope I can rely on you to be kind to Hugh. He’s a good man and he won’t hurt you unless you hurt him, but I suppose that’s quite likely. If only I could stay and watch, but needs must!”

Charles rebuttoned his waistcoat, replaced his wig and pressed the false nose back into place, before striding casually out of the apartment. Helen tried to pursue him, but Hugh caught her by the shoulder of her dress. As she struggled, the dress tore almost in half down to the waist. They grappled, spinning around, trying to trip each other.

Meanwhile, the three boys had seen Meredith leave and wondered why their mother was still in Hugh’s apartment. Listening at the door, they heard sounds of a struggle.

Kenneth said, “I wish I knew what was going on. I don’t know whether we should interfere or not.”

Lewis said, “We could look at them from upstairs.” He led his brothers through a stable, up into the hayloft and along to Hugh’s bedroom. Kenneth said, “The trapdoor’s closed and they’ll hear us if we open it.”

Lewis smiled and shook his head. “Watch this!” He silently removed a baton wedged between the trapdoor and the nearest floorboard.

David stared in amazement, but Kenneth smirked and whispered, “I should’ve known you’d know.” Lewis returned the smirk as they shuffled around so they could all see something of what was happening.

Lewis said, “I can see one of Mama’s tits.”

Kenneth replied, “This is going to be as good as when she fought with Charlie.”

Helen shouted, “Let me go! I’ve got to stop him!”

Hugh replied firmly but calmly, “And I’ve got to stop yez stopping him. Will ye keep still – ye’r wriggling like an eel!” He slapped her and shook her.

David whispered, “He’s hurting her.”

Kenneth replied, “I know. She’ll be hurting him next.”

He had hardly said this when Helen butted Hugh in the face and bit him on the hand, making him utter a curse in Gaelic and swing her around. As she lost her footing, she grabbed at him wildly, hanging onto his belt which snapped at the buckle, letting her fall to the ground, still holding the belt. He stepped back and tripped over his breeches which had slid to his ankles. He cursed again as he kicked them off before getting to his feet, pulling his shirt down to cover his dignity, in time to receive a series of lashes from the belt on his thighs. He stepped towards Helen and the next blow caught him on the buttocks.

Lewis bit his sleeve to suppress a laugh. David asked, “Is Mama winning?”

Kenneth replied, “Not yet, but she’s only just getting going. So’s Hugh, I think.”

Hugh grabbed at the belt and missed twice before managing to grasp it. Then he jerked it from Helen’s hand so violently that it took some skin off her palm. Then he twirled his new weapon and chuckled. “You’ve asked fer dis!”

A fair fight.

Helen avoided the first blow but then she tripped over her skirt as she dodged again. She jumped backwards. He laughed. “Had enough?”

She tucked her skirt into her belt and said, “Just getting ready for you.” She backed into a pile of stakes ready for use in the garden. She picked one up and said, “Come on, now. This’ll make it a fair fight.”

David whispered, “Won’t that hurt more than a belt?”

Lewis answered, “Yes, but he’s bigger than her. So it is fairer now.”

Hugh soon wondered how fair it was, as Helen demonstrated her fencing skills, striking him from all angles and poking him with the end of her weapon occasionally for the sake of variety.

Kenneth muttered, “He’s not as quick as Charlie. He’s going to suffer.”

This thought also occurred to Hugh, who tried to end his punishment by lunging at Helen and seizing her weapon. She clung to it but finally let go, twisting sideways, tripping her opponent and pushing him with a shoulder. Hugh found himself flat on his face with Helen kneeling astride him. He tried to hit Helen with an elbow, but it connected only lightly. She laughed, pulling his head back by the hair with one hand while delivering a series of punches with the other and said, “Tell me when you’ve had enough.”

He pressed his hands down and pushed up. She had almost forgotten how strong he was. She pulled harder at the hair and punched harder and faster at his back, but when he was on all fours, he twisted, pitching her off, and threw himself on top of her.

David asked, “What’s going on? It’s getting dark.”

Kenneth answered, “I know. I’m not sure. It almost sounds like they’re kissing.”

Lewis said, “I think that’s what they wanted.”

Hugh was indeed kissing Helen and fondling her exposed breast. He said, “I reckon it’s dark enough to be time to let yez go, like Charlie said. But it seems a shame. I might as well make the most of it. After all, I’ll be leaving tomorrow.”

“Why?”

“Well, you know. You’ll be sending me away after dis, will ye not?”

“I don’t think so. I need a gardener and I do like a good fight every now and then.”

He was speechless, but it made no difference, for he couldn’t get a sound out as she pressed her lips against his and tightened the grip with her arms and legs.

David asked, “Who do you think won?”

Kenneth replied, “I’d call it a draw.”

Lewis’s laugh gave away their presence for the first time.

What now?

I hope you enjoyed Unmasking a spy and will enjoy even more all the Highwaypersosns novels, especially the fourth and final one (for now) Blood in the Heather: Rumours, Rebels and Rogues.