Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Escape From New Kent



DIANA PRODDED THE banked coals to life, then closed the stove's firebox door and stood shivering in the predawn chill.

Outside the inn she heard a slight clatter and a mutter. Another drunk, she thought. Someone who'd stumbled out of the taproom and found the nearest straw to sleep in. 

Diana walked to the half door that opened onto the stable yard and pushed the curtain aside to see whether the wakening drunk was unknown or poor, in which case he was to be ignored. Or it might be one of Nate's friends, in which case she'd best make a whiskey toddy to brace him for the new day.

Gray fog hung low over the yard and climbed the hill beyond the town. The clouds, as she'd once heard a child say, were walking. She saw something move toward her through the mist. 

Diana flattened back against the wall. Two soldiers. Wearing red coats. She thought they were giants—then realized both men wore tall, black helmets. They carried long, bayoneted rifles as if they were spears. The British!

Diana waited for musket butts to hammer in the barred door. Nothing happened. She chanced another look and saw more soldiers advancing toward, and then past, the inn.

Noiseless in bare feet, she ran upstairs into Emmett's bedchamber. He was sleeping heavily, curled on one side of the bed. She shook him, and Emmett woke. Muzzy from the night before.

"The British!"

"Eh?"

"The British are outside!"

"Jesus, lass. That's a story I—"

"No. Look."

She dragged him—Emmett stumbling, not aware of his near-nakedness—to the window and twitched the linen curtain away. Emmett saw a halberd-carrying sergeant wave a squad forward, and in a moment he was away from the window.

"What do we do?" Diana was still whispering.

Emmett's mind spun through rum fumes, and then he was dragging his clothes on.

"Do I wake up Hatch?"

Emmett pulled on his boots, not bothering with foot-cloths. Diana was trying to keep from tears. Emmett sucked air, feeling his heart hammer; he calmed a little. "No. Don't wake anybody up," he hissed.

"But-"

"But nothing. They're lobsterbacks, right enough. Here to loot, I'd gamble." He gave her a close look, to be sure she would thoroughly understand what he was going to say next. 

"There's nobody standing against them now. Which is the best thing that could happen. They'll move to the center of town and take formation. Then they'll loose a volley and wake everyone up."

Emmett was nearly dressed. "They'll levy New Kent for what they need: horses, provender, the liquor. If Hatch has a brain, he'll roll his whiskey outside, and maybe save his inn. As long as no one fights back, you'll have your lives. With luck, they won't fire the town."

"What about you?"

"Me they'd shoot. Or hang. But I won't be here. I'll be out the back and gone across the hills before they come back with their searchers. One man, fleeing afoot with nothing of value, is beneath their worries."

Emmett was on his knees, shoveling his supplies into the pack. Maybe he'd best leave the rifle. Look even more innocent. Calm yourself, Emmett. Don't run off like a spooked yearling. 

Then he saw Diana had left the room. There was no time for farewells. What might have been would never be. He was halfway down the stairs when he heard a scuffle behind him. 

It was Diana, clutching her shoes and a canvas carrying bag. His mouth opened, and she motioned silence and brushed past him into the kitchen. There, still in a whisper: "I'm going with you!"

"The hell you are! If you're for a runaway, now's not the time, with troops out, blood and loot in their eye."

Diana was putting on her shoes. Emmett Shannon was looking for a closet to shove her into and something to block its doors while he cut and ran, when he heard the first dull thud through the mist. Coming from near the village square.

"Christ! That's done it!"

Four ... no, five single shots, then the slam of a volley. Some goddamned villager must've been still awake to see the redcoats, and had his musket at hand. The volley, sounding like a single, huge blunderbuss going off, would have been from the British line. 

More spattered shots—the British skirmishers or maybe some confused colonialists. New Kent was fighting back. Shannon heard the shout of orders and the thud of running feet past the inn. He grabbed Diana's arm.

"Now you're coming."

The British were no more prone to atrocity and rape than any other army. Unless they were opposed. That would produce the terror. Shannon had the back door open and Diana out, into the stable yard. She followed him, running, across to the stables. Shannon thought for a moment, then thumbed his rifle's frizzen open and sprinkled powder into it.

"You're going to fight them!" A bit of pride.

Emmett didn't bother with an answer. He dribbled powder from the horn on a pile of dry hay under the eaves of the stable, turned the rifle to the side and snapped the trigger. Sparks flew, and the powder and hay caught. He shouted for Diana to free the horses. Emmett flung a handful of burning hay into one stall. 

A horse neighed in panic and bolted out. Emmett pulled more clumps and pitched them into the other stalls. The yard was a wild confusion of panicked horses, rearing and whinnying. 

The dry interiors of the stalls exploded into flame, and the horses bolted toward Emmett—he shouted, waving his rifle—then spun and plunged out of the stable yard, toward open country.

"Now we run." Diana hesitated, not sure, now frightened.

"I'm not mad," Shannon said. "There's not a soldier serving, even a Britisher, that'll let a horse go past him. Not unless he wants to live with the sergeant's boot for a backside. Now be quiet! Try to do what I do."

Crouched, they scuttled off in the wake of the horses, straight toward the ridge and away from the paths. Emmett heard the shouts of soldiers from the hill in front of him. Behind him there came the double crash of volleyed fire inside New Kent. 

But Shannon's eyes, ears, and mind had no time for whatever was happening in the village. He was thinking only of what could be in the brush line ahead of him, his empty rifle, whether there would be redcoat vedettes on horseback in the valley beyond the hill, and that damned young woman panting along in his footsteps.

* * * *

The smokeboil that had been New Kent could still be seen five miles beyond the village. Emmett lay on his stomach, looking down at the main road. He wondered from which direction the British had come. Actually, he was trying to think of other matters rather than what to do about Diana. He turned, hearing a metallic clink, saw what Diana was doing and groaned. The clink came from a handful of coins.

Gold.

Diana finished counting, added the pile to a stack of currency and stuffed it all into Abigail Fahey's money sack. The sack went into her canvas bag.

"My inheritance."

"I'm pleased you trust me enough to let me see it," Emmett said dryly. "But that brings up a question. If you had this inheritance—and I'll not ask how it came that a bonded servant would have someone leave her gold—why didn't you buy your way out? Instead of running with me?"

"Hatch stole it. So I took it back. Just before we ran."

"Oh." Emmett saw no reason to disbelieve her. Certainly Hatch was the kind that would steal from any person in his power. But this now changed Shannon's thinking. He had thought that perhaps before they reached the Hudson and he turned toward Cherry Valley, they might encounter a small village or farm where Diana could be left. Willing labor, in these times, was scarce. But no longer. Not with that gold. 

Someone in the Hatch family—even if Nate ended up spitted on a British bayonet—must know of the money. A runaway might or might not be advertised— but one who had stolen would certainly be hunted. With a reward. He would probably be responsible for her, Emmett thought with a touch of gloom, until . . . until, Christ, it could be Albany. 

He didn't know how far up the Hudson the barbarism of the Neutral Ground had spread. But he thought the worst. Then he smiled.

Diana, waiting for a reaction to the gold and her statement, returned the smile. Tentatively.

"I was just thinking," Emmett said, "that maybe you're luck for me. If you hadn't kicked me out of my stupor, I might this moment be swinging on the end of a British noose."

He stood and helped Diana up. Her tentative smile grew firm.

"I hope you'll be the same for me," she said.

NEXT: Two For The Road

*****
S.O.S. ALLAN'S NEW NOVEL

Between February and May of 1942, German U-boats operated with impunity off the Florida coast, sinking scores of freighters from Cape Canaveral to Key West and killing nearly five thousand people. Residents were horrified witnesses of the attacks—the night skies were aflame and in the morning the beaches were covered with oil and tar, ship parts and charred corpses. The Germans even landed teams of saboteurs charged with disrupting war efforts in the factories of the North. This novel is based on those events. For my own purposes, I set the tale in the fictitious town of Juno Beach on the banks of the equally fictitious Seminole River—all in the very real Palm Beach County, a veritable wilderness in those long ago days. Among the witnesses were my grandfather and grandmother, who operated an orchard and ranch in the area. 


*****
A DAUGHTER OF LIBERTY

The year is 1778 and the Revolutionary War has young America trapped in the crossfire of hatred and fear. Diana, an indentured servant, escapes her abusive master with the help of Emmett Shannon, a deserter from the desperate army at Valley Forge. They fall in love and marry, but their happiness is shattered and Diana Shannon must learn to survive on her own. From that moment on she will become a true woman of her times, blazing a path from lawless lands in the grips of the Revolution, to plague-stricken Philadelphia, to the burning of Washington in the War Of 1812.
*****
TWO NEW AUDIOBOOKS ONLY $4.95!




Tales Sometimes Tall, but always true, of Allan Cole's years in Hollywood with his late partner, Chris Bunch. How a naked lady almost became our first agent. How we survived La-La Land with only the loss of half our brain cells. How Bunch & Cole became the ultimate Fix-It 
Boys. How an alleged Mafia Don was very, very good to us. The guy who cornered the market on movie rocks. Andy Warhol's Fire Extinguisher. The Real Stars Of Hollywood. Why they don't make million dollar movies. See The Seven Pi$$ing Dwarfs. Learn: how to kill a "difficult" actor… And much, much more.

*****


THE TIMURA TRILOGY: When The Gods Slept, Wolves Of The Gods and The Gods Awaken. This best selling fantasy series now available as trade paperbacks, e-books (in all varieties) and as audiobooks. Visit The Timura Trilogy page for links to all the editions. 

NEWLY REVISED KINDLE EDITIONS OF THE TIMURA TRILOGY NOW AVAILABLE. (1) When The Gods Slept;(2) Wolves Of The Gods; (3) The Gods Awaken.

*****





A NATION AT WAR WITH ITSELF: In Book Three Of The Shannon Trilogy, young Patrick Shannon is the heir-apparent to the Shannon fortune, but murder and betrayal at a family gathering send him fleeing into the American frontier, with only the last words of a wise old woman to arm him against what would come. And when the outbreak of the Civil War comes he finds himself fighting on the opposite side of those he loves the most. In The Wars Of The Shannons we see the conflict, both on the battlefield and the homefront, through the eyes of Patrick and the members of his extended Irish-American family as they struggle to survive the conflict that ripped the new nation apart, and yet, offered a dim beacon of hope.

*****
NEW: THE AUDIOBOOK VERSION OF

THE HATE PARALLAX


What if the Cold War never ended -- but continued for a thousand years? Best-selling authors Allan Cole (an American) and Nick Perumov (a Russian) spin a mesmerizing "what if?" tale set a thousand years in the future, as an American and a Russian super-soldier -- together with a beautiful American detective working for the United Worlds Police -- must combine forces to defeat a secret cabal ... and prevent a galactic disaster! This is the first - and only - collaboration between American and Russian novelists. Narrated by John Hough. Click the title links below for the trade paperback and kindle editions. (Also available at iTunes.)

*****
THE SPYMASTER'S DAUGHTER:

A novel by Allan and his daughter, Susan


After laboring as a Doctors Without Borders physician in the teaming refugee camps and minefields of South Asia, Dr. Ann Donovan thought she'd seen Hell as close up as you can get. And as a fifth generation CIA brat, she thought she knew all there was to know about corruption and betrayal. But then her father - a legendary spymaster - shows up, with a ten-year-old boy in tow. A brother she never knew existed. Then in a few violent hours, her whole world is shattered, her father killed and she and her kid brother are one the run with hell hounds on their heels. They finally corner her in a clinic in Hawaii and then all the lies and treachery are revealed on one terrible, bloody storm- ravaged night.



BASED ON THE CLASSIC STEN SERIES by Allan Cole & Chris Bunch: Fresh from their mission to pacify the Wolf Worlds, Sten and his Mantis Team encounter a mysterious ship that has been lost among the stars for thousands of years. At first, everyone aboard appears to be long dead. Then a strange Being beckons, pleading for help. More disturbing: the presence of AM2, a strategically vital fuel tightly controlled by their boss - The Eternal Emperor. They are ordered to retrieve the remaining AM2 "at all costs." But once Sten and his heavy worlder sidekick, Alex Kilgour, board the ship they must dare an out of control defense system that attacks without warning as they move through dark warrens filled with unimaginable horrors. When they reach their goal they find that in the midst of all that death are the "seeds" of a lost civilization. 

*****

TALES OF THE BLUE MEANIE
NOW AN AUDIOBOOK!

Venice Boardwalk Circa 1969
In the depths of the Sixties and The Days Of Rage, a young newsman, accompanied by his pregnant wife and orphaned teenage brother, creates a Paradise of sorts in a sprawling Venice Beach community of apartments, populated by students, artists, budding scientists and engineers lifeguards, poets, bikers with  a few junkies thrown in for good measure. The inhabitants come to call the place “Pepperland,” after the Beatles movie, “Yellow Submarine.” Threatening this paradise is  "The Blue Meanie,"  a crazy giant of a man so frightening that he eventually even scares himself.