ESCAPE

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The rescuers are near but she doesn’t know and is on her own. Determined and desperate to save her son and herself. From my recently released action/adventure historical novel, CAPTAIN’S SORTIE:

In the water upstream from the ship, a small, hastily built log raft piled with rifles and powder horns was pulled through the cold water by Bear. He kicked himself along with the four others across to the smaller ragged abandoned ship at anchor in the river. Only Mark was struggling in the current. Thomas saw the splashing and at first moved next to the Ottawa to quiet him lest they alert the manned ship just downstream from them. Thomas saw the Indian wasn’t going to make the crossing and slid an arm over the smaller boy’s chest.

“Steady, Mark. Let me help you. Don’t push me, just stop moving and rest on me.” Thomas held Mark’s head above the water and stayed with him until they reached the side of the ship. Ben, Bear and John pulled themselves up over the rail and armed with only hawk and knife, spread out to search the ship.

Thomas found a handhold for Mark and pushed him up. When Mark found the deck, Thomas began to hand up the guns and powder from the raft. When he finally joined the rest on deck, he saw the dead French guard.

Bear said quietly, “She was here. One less Frenchman for the rest of us.” He turned and looked over the stern to the next ship in line and could see movement on deck. The distinct sound of the capstan reached across the water to them. The anchor was coming up. Men up in the rigging were loosing the tops and the ship was ready to turn in the current and go out into the lake.

“Quick now!” Ben hissed so his voice would not carry, “Cut the cable. Thomas, your sword!”

Thomas ran to the bow and began to hack at the anchor rope, His strong slash took only a few strokes to sever the old rope and the ship came to life as the water began to push it stern first toward the larger ship.

Hummingbird slipped out from under the skiff and pulled a line from the rail and tied it to the bow. She heard voices nearby and ducked back under before she was found out. She hoped they did not see the work she had done.

“Anchor is comin’ up, Paul,” Joshua said. He was back up at the door listening to the orders drifting down from the deck above.

De La Rue wasted no time retiring to his cabin. The second lieutenant, who had been put out of his quarters, left behind a few bottles of claret. Not up to de La Rue’s taste, but it had to do. The second bottle was open and he was reclining on the lieutenant’s hammock dreaming of perfumed ladies and beef with a thick sauce.

Bear Track received no ceremony from the ship’s crew. The bosun pointed the Huron to a corner forward of the larboard cannons and told him to stay there out of the way. The second ship, nearer the lake, weighed and was turning now, clearing for her sister ship to follow. And daylight was helping the risen moon light the way.

“Bear, the wheel. Put us next to her. Everyone down. Hide from sight,” Ben ordered. “We board her on her larboard side. They will be busy at her guns on the other.”

Bear let the ship fall off in the current and kept her stern to as they closed the gap. Gradually the ship gathered speed and he turned her bow downstream and pointed for the other ship.

The anchor came up gushing water and the ship began its turn. No one noticed the derelict was loose and drifting down on them. Wind caught the tops and she completed her turn. Gun crews were already sanding the deck under the starboard guns and powder monkeys were shuffling under the weight of their burdens.

She was desperate now. She had to get the boat over the side before the ship rose to speed and could swamp the skiff before she could shove away from the hull. She rolled out onto the deck and shuffled to the rail. The stern line was wrapped tight over a pin and she struggled to get it loose. Finally it came off in her hand and she drug it over to the stern of the skiff. She got it threaded through the eye and then turned to find the lead to pull the slack and lift the skiff upright and over the rail. A sailor rushed past her, but never looked down, driven by his task at hand.

The movement changed from the gentle rocking of lying at anchor in the river to the roll of the cross current and then smoothing to the downstream direction of the ship. Paul felt every transition and his spirits, already low, sunk further.

“It will be a close thing, Captain,” Bear said. The head start they had on the anchored ship was dissolving with every half minute. The first swirl of a wake began to show at the back of the sailing ship as they passed her stern, matched speed and drifted along the larboard side.

She pulled hard, but the weight of the skiff fought against the screeching blocks. The noise seemed to echo across the deck, but the crew were either aloft or at the guns on the opposite rail. The skiff hung and began to sway out just above the rail. A bit more, just a bit…

The skiff plummeted down past the rail, the bow catching and crashing as it toppled over the side. The smell of the Huron filled her nose as her hands were pulled from the rope. She watched in horror as her small rescue boat fell away.

“Little bird, you have flown back to me, to a beating and then to die.” Bear Track was there and had her by the arm, his knife coming out of his belt and up toward her wide, round eyes.