The nurse came into Claire’s room.
“Your husband is here dear.”
Claire didn’t respond. She didn’t even open her eyes. Her husband was dead. She heard the nurse speaking to someone in the doorway, and a deeper voice answering. Then she heard the door close.
“Claire.” She knew that voice.
“Claire.” It was closer and she opened her eyes.
Black Jack Randall, his face very close to hers. Claire recoiled in fear and loathing. Black Jack looked startled. No. Wait. She was in the 20th century. It wasn’t Black Jack, it was Frank.
“Claire, darling. You came back.” Frank sank down into the chair next to the bed. “I thought I’d lost you. What happened? Were you taken?”
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. Frank.” Claire had to keep reminding herself that this wasn’t Black Jack.
“I’ll believe anything you tell me.”
“No, you won’t. I lived through it and I didn’t believe it at first.”
“I promise darling, just tell me. Whatever it is we can work it out. Together.”
So Claire did. There in the hospital room, she told him everything. From the day she went through the stones until the day she came back. Everything. Claire began her recitation in a deadened voice trying desperately to keep some distance from the crippling grief that threatened to overwhelm her. It became more and more difficult as she relived every moment of those three years. By the end, Claire was crying.
Frank sat and listened. He didn’t ask any questions, he didn’t make any noise really. Just listened.
“So Jamie sent me back. To you. He knew he was going to die. Even though the only Randall he knew was a monster, Jamie trusted me when I told him you are a good man. So he sent me back to you, to keep us safe. The baby and I.”
“The baby? You mean… that is to say… ”
“Yes Frank. I’m pregnant. With Jamie’s child. He told me that this baby is all that will be left of him.” Claire sobbed.
Frank’s mind was reeling. It was information overload on a grand scale. Of all the scenarios he had come up with, nothing came close to the story Claire had just related. He had so many different emotions fighting for prominence. Anger, regret, grief, loss. But also love, compassion, sympathy.
“Claire, I’d like you to be honest with me. Did you love him?”
“Yes Frank I did. I still do. I’m sorry. I don’t mean to hurt you. I loved you too. Part of me still does. But not like I love Jamie…. I didn’t mean to fall in love. In fact, I fought against it. But I couldn’t deny what I felt. It was the most powerful thing I’ve ever experienced.”
“I see.” Frank did see. He could see the regret on Claire’s face. She wasn’t trying to hurt him. She was telling the truth.
“And when you drew back from me just now, you thought I was my ancestor?”
“Yes. He looked very like you. Or you look very like him. But you are nothing like him. He was a monster.”
“So you said. Claire. I want to believe you. It’s a fantastic story, but it’s too detailed for you to be lying.” Frank had a thought just then. “What was his name? This six foot, three inch Highland Warrior of yours?”
“James. Alexander. Malcolm. Mackenzie. Fraser.”
“He was an officer at Culloden you say?”
“Yes. An officer in Lovat’s regiment. Simon Lovat was his grandfather on his father’s side.”
That was why Frank believed her. That detail. Unless Claire had spent the last three years becoming a history scholar, which Frank doubted; she’d have no way of knowing those sorts of details. Unless she was telling him the truth. Unless she had lived it.
“Alright. I’ve spoken with the doctor. He says you need to stay in hospital for at least another week to ten days. Something about starvation and anemia.”
“There wasn’t much food at the end. I kept giving part of mine to Fergus. I didn’t even know I was pregnant. Jamie had to tell me.”
“Jamie had to tell you? Claire you’re a nurse. How could you not know that you were pregnant and he could?”
“Jamie...” Claire stopped, looking uncomfortable.
“Jamie what? Claire… tell me.”
“I don’t want to make you upset Frank. Talking to you, about another man. Doesn’t it bother you?”
He grimaced. “Yes, it does. But Claire if I am to believe the things you’ve told me, I need the information. I need you to answer my questions truthfully and completely.”
“I’m not one of your prisoners to be interrogated Frank.” Claire said angrily.
Frank took a deep breath. “No you aren’t. Please Claire. I’m trying to be fair, but this is damned difficult for me. I promise you I don’t want to hear about how another man knew you so intimately, he could tell you were pregnant before you realized it. I don’t want to hear it, but I need this information so I can decided what to do next.”
“Divorce me you mean.”
“I don’t mean that.” Frank looked at Claire earnestly. “Never that Claire. I love you.”
Claire looked abashed. “I know Frank. I’m sorry.”
He patted her hand. “I’ll go. Visiting hours are almost over. I’d like to come back tomorrow afternoon if that’s alright.” He bent to kiss her and stopped when she shrank back.
“Frank. I'm sorry... I…” Claire was embarrassed at her reaction. She didn’t know exactly what she wanted to say.
Frank smiled at her crookedly. “It’s alright Claire. Truly. Get some rest. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He turned to go and paused at the door. “Claire, have you spoken to anyone else about this?”
“No of course not.” Claire scoffed. “They would think I’ve lost my mind.”
“Of course.” Frank closed the door behind him.
Driving home, Frank’s mind was in turmoil. Claire wasn’t crazy, but her story was unbelievable. Time travel wasn’t possible. At least he didn’t think so. Her story was so detailed though. She couldn’t be making it up.
Frank had worked in the intelligence office during the war. He was one of the better interrogators in the service. Besides, the Claire he remembered had been incapable of lying. She had a ‘glass face’ as the saying went. So she wasn’t lying. Everything she had told him, Claire believed to be the truth.
He could dismiss her story as reaction to trauma… or he could try and corroborate her story. If Claire was telling the truth, there must be something of this James Fraser in the historical record. Especially if he was an officer. Frank decided to go in the morning to the National Archives and see what he could find. He returned to Reverend Wakefield’s house and informed both Reg and Mrs. Graham that he had seen Claire, but that she was still very fragile. She was not up for visitors just yet.
“But where has she been?” Reg wanted to know. “Did she say?”
“Yes. She told me everything.” Frank looked at Mrs. Graham, who looked back with understanding in her eyes. “I can’t really explain it to you just yet Reg. I need to check into some things first.”
“What things? Frank, are the police involved? Was she kidnapped, as ye always thought?”
“Not exactly. Listen Reg. I’m knackered. Let me do some research in the morning. I’ll fill you in when I have more of the answers, alright?”
“Alright. I didn’t mean to press you Frank.”
“I understand Reg. You’ve been very supportive through all this. Thank you.”
Frank turned to leave. “I’d like to get an early start in the morning, so I’ll go up now. Good night.”
“Good night Frank”
“Good night Mr. Randall”
Frank was at the National Archives when they opened the following morning. Being an historian, he knew exactly what he was looking for. It didn’t take him very long to find the information. When he had found James Fraser of Lovat’s regiment, he looked through other records, searching for additional information. What he found broke his heart.
‘He survived Culloden. If Claire is correct and she travels 202 years, then she could go back. He’s still alive in 1746. If he is this Dunbonnet, seen near Lallybroch, Fraser is still alive in 1748. It fits the timeline. I’m guessing here, but I’m fairly sure they are the same man.’
Suddenly Frank didn’t want to know anymore. If he kept looking he might see that Claire had returned to this Fraser fellow. He wasn’t sure he was ready for that.
Frank knew he could keep this from her. Claire was so heartbroken. She wasn’t likely to look for confirmation of Fraser’s death. But that wouldn’t be fair, to any of them. Frank loved Claire. He probably always would. That wasn’t the difficulty.
Claire no longer loved Frank in the same way. That was the problem. She loved Fraser. She was carrying Fraser's child. A man that she loved, more than she had ever loved Frank. Who Frank knew was still alive. He wanted to be angry. He should be angry, and yet…
Frank sat there in the dusty archive wrestling with his conscience. It’s NOT fair he raged silently. I’ve hoped, I’ve waited, and she came back. But not for me. She came back for Fraser. Him and the child, not me.
Frank slumped in his chair. As heartbroken as he was, Frank was a good man. He could not keep this from Claire in a futile attempt to win her back. He’d seen the look in her eyes when she spoke of her love for the Scot. Even when they were first married, she hadn’t looked at Frank like that.
Sighing, Frank went to the desk and paid for copies of certain documents. The last thing Claire needed was to believe he was mocking her pain.
It was late in the afternoon when Frank returned to the hospital. Claire was sitting in her bed looking the same as she had the previous evening. Heartbroken, grieving, listless... and uninterested in doing anything except surviving for the sake of the child she carried.
“Claire.” Frank made sure to call from across the room this time. He knew she couldn’t help it, but Frank never wanted to see that look of loathing directed at him again.
“Frank. I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you come in.”
Frank sat down again in the chair. “Claire, I went to the National Archives this morning.”
“Did you? That’s nice.” Claire said indifferently.
“Yes, I did. I went for a specific purpose Claire.” Frank caught her eye. “I went to find information on James Fraser.” Claire tensed at that.
“I don’t want to hear Frank. Please.” Tears formed in her eyes.
“No Claire, I wouldn’t do that to you, I promise. It’s good news.”
“How can there possibly be any good...” Claire stopped and really looked at Frank for the first time since her return. A look of incredulous hope stole across her face.
“He’s alive. Claire. Your James Fraser survived Culloden.” Frank paused. When Claire didn’t say anything, he continued.
“First I looked at records from Culloden. It says that an officer of Lovat’s regiment, one James Fraser was spared execution due to a life debt owed by the Grey Family.” Frank pulled the papers from his briefcase.
“Yes, there was a young officer, a William Grey I think. Jamie captured him, but let him go and spirited him back to his own lines. The others wanted to shoot him, but he was just a boy. Jamie wouldn’t do it.”
“Right. Well, it seems Fraser was spared and sent back to Lallybroch. The English officer, a Harold Grey wrote that he expected Mr. Fraser to expire of his wounds.”
Claire started to cry. “So he went home and died there. Forgive me Frank, but I hardly consider that good news.” Said Claire sarcastically.
“Claire. That’s not fair. This is difficult for me, but I have no interest in hurting you. I found something else.”
Claire was embarrassed. “I’m sorry Frank. You’re right. That wasn’t fair of me. What else did you find?” She wiped her face with her hands and tried to calm down.
“In 1747, there were rewards offered for a man called the Dunbonnet. He was seen in and around Lallybroch in 1747 and 1748. He’s described as being six and a half feet tall and having red hair. There’s even a wanted poster.” Frank pulled out a copy of the poster. “Here look. I recognized it because it looks like the ghost I saw the night before you disappeared. Is this your James Fraser?”
Claire looked at the drawing. It wasn’t exactly the same, but the similarities couldn’t be coincidence. She put a trembling hand out and touched it. “Yes. It’s not an exact likeness, but it’s very close and the description matches. Jamie is six foot three.”
“Yes, you told me that yesterday.” Her details were consistent, another thing that indicated she was telling the truth. Not that Frank doubted her by now. He was just used to marking information like that.
“Claire, do you understand what this means?” Frank wasn’t sure she’d put all the pieces together.
“Jamie’s alive.” The hope was back along with an incandescent joy that hurt Frank to look at.
“Yes. Your Jamie is alive. You can go back and be with him.”
“What?” Claire was startled. “What? Frank?”
“Claire, I love you.” Frank had to stop a minute. “I love you, but you don’t love me. Not like you love him. Not anymore. Maybe you never loved me that much.” Claire went to speak and Frank held up a hand to stop her.
“It doesn’t matter. I’m not angry with you. Heartbroken, not angry. You don’t love me that way anymore, but I still love you. Enough to want you happy. To not be selfish. I’m going to help you get back to him. To your Jamie.” Frank had tears in his eyes by now, but he didn’t break down. Not in front of her. No. Frank was determined to be a good man. To do the right thing here.
“Oh Frank. Really? You really mean to help me?”
“Yes. After I leave here I’m going to talk to Mrs. Graham. You remember her, Reg’s housekeeper.”
“Yes I remember her.”
“Alright, good. You can’t leave the hospital for several days, so that gives us a bit of time. We’ll get some things together for you. If I remember correctly the English were quite severe on the Highlanders following Culloden. You just rest and concentrate on regaining your health.”
Frank got up to leave. He needed some time to himself. Claire sat frozen until he was almost through the door.
“Frank!” He turned to look at her. “Thank you. For believing me. For offering to help me. Most of all for finding him.” Frank just nodded at her and left.
He didn’t talk to Mrs. Graham immediately. Frank went first to his room, and had himself a good cry. It was probably not very masculine of him. At the moment he didn’t care. When Claire disappeared he had held everything in until he had exploded, all over poor Reg’s shed.
That had been the not knowing. If she was dead or alive, if she had left on purpose or had been taken. Well now he knew. She hadn’t left on purpose, but she hadn’t been taken either. Frank wasn’t sure if that was comforting or not. At least he knew. He could move on as Reg had suggested two years ago.
Frank sniffed and went to the sink to wash his face. He’d grieve properly later. Most likely for some time. Right now he had work to do.
Going downstairs he found Mrs. Graham in the kitchen.
“Ah there you are Mrs. Graham. Might I have a moment of your time?”
“Of course Mr. Randall. Would ye like some tea?”
“No. Thank you. I’d like to talk to you about Claire.”
“Aye. She went through the stones didn’t she?”
“Yes. She… went to 1743. She fell in love with a Scotsman and married him. He sent her back through the stones on the Eve of Culloden, thinking he was going to die there.”
“But he didna?”
“No. He didn’t. I did some research in the Archives this morning. I found that he’s still alive, at least until 1748. I’ve told Claire. In fact I’ve just come from seeing her.”
“Alright. What did ye wish from me then? Did she no believe ye?”
“Claire believed me.” Frank paused here and took a breath. Once he told Mrs. Graham, he couldn’t change his mind. “I told her I’d help her get back to him. Her Scot. His name is James Fraser.”
“James Fraser? Red Jamie is the man she marrit?”
“You know of him?”
“Aye. He was kin ta the Mackenzies.” Mrs. Graham knew a lot more than that. She wouldn’t be sharing it with Frank though. It would only hurt him.
“So. Ye want to help her get back to Red Jamie. What can I do?”
“I plan to put together some things for her to take. Money mostly, although if you can think of anything else that would be helpful, I would greatly appreciate it. It will take her some time to recover her health, even after she leaves hospital.
I’ll have to talk to Reg, I was hoping that she could stay here. You know about the stones and you won’t think she’s crazy.”
“Of course. I can’t imagine the Reverend turnin’ ye away. O course, if ye plan to send her through the stones, she’ll need a jewel or two. It doesna have to be large ye ken, but it needs to be sapphire or diamond. I dinna know if other jewels work, only those two are mentioned in the stories ye ken.”
“I didn’t know that. Thank you Mrs. Graham. That is precisely the sort of help I need.”
Mrs. Graham smiled at him sympathetically and patted his hand. “I ken this must be hurting yer heart Mr. Randall, and I’m sorry for it. Yer a good man, doin’ the right thing.”
Frank gave her a smile that was closer to a grimace. “Yes, well. Love is not selfish as St. Paul’s letter says.” He stood. “I’ll go find Reg and ask him about staying for awhile.”
“The next time the stones will be open is the Feast of Beltane on May the first. That doesna gie us much time. After that, they dinna open again until Lithia in June.”
“But Claire came through on April 15th.”
“Aye. That was because of Culloden ye ken.” Said Mrs. Graham as if it made all the difference.
“I see.” Frank didn’t see, not really. It didn't matter, he didn’t want to delve into Celtic lore just then.
“Well, Claire won’t have recovered enough by May 1st. Let’s plan to send her back in June. That will give her time to recover her health. It will give us time to collect the things to send with her.”
Frank left the room in search of Reg.
Claire left the hospital two weeks later. Frank and Mrs. Graham picked her up from the hospital. She seemed very relieved to see Mrs. Graham, who insisted they call her Fiona. Frank felt awkward. Legally Claire was still his wife, at least in 1948. But she wasn’t, not really. She was married to someone else. So when they arrived at the manor, Claire was given her own room, down the hall from his. It seemed to ease her mind, she wasn’t as tense at dinner anyway.
“Claire, Mrs. Gra… Fiona and I have been planning for your trip. She tells me that June 20th is the most auspicious date for you to… travel.”
“June 20th, that’s five weeks from now.”
“Yes. That will give you five more weeks to rest and build up your strength. Given the situation, it will probably be safer for you to walk to Lallybroch. That will take you several days, even if you don’t have to hide or stop.”
“That’s true. I might be able to buy a horse in Inverness, but that would be in the opposite direction from Lallybroch. Besides, I’m sure they’ll be looking for the Stuart Witch.”
“Quite. Now I brought your clothes home from the hospital and Mrs… Fiona has cleaned and repaired them. I don’t know just how much we can send through with you. I thought money would be the easiest for you to carry. So I asked… Fiona to sew some hidden pockets in your skirt and petticoats.”
“Aye. I also took the liberty of creating a large pocket in the bum roll. The more places ye have to hide things, the less likely it would all be taken, even if ye were to be waylaid.”
Frank looked shocked for a minute and then shook himself and went on. “I’d forgotten how violent that time period was.”
Claire smiled slightly. “Well I certainly haven’t. That was a wonderful idea Fiona.”
“Moving on. Claire, I went to the bank and withdrew all of your inheritance from your Uncle Lambert. I’ve taken the liberty of converting it to currency that was in use in Scotland at the time. Gold bullion would be suspect. I don’t wish you to be arrested for possessing the lost Stuart gold.”
“The what?” Claire laughed.
“There is a legend of a shipment of gold being sent to Prince Charles by King Louis. It was never recovered, but...”
“It’s not worth the risk. I agree.”
“Here.” Frank brought out a strongbox and opened it.
Claire gasped. “Frank, how much is in here?”
“About $25,000.00 pounds.”
“What? Uncle Lamb only left me about 15000.00. How did you buy 25,000.00 worth of antique currency with that? I would think that would be more expensive not less.”
Frank turned a bit red. “Well, yes. I added to it a bit. From my own collection.”
“Frank, no. I can’t possibly take this.”
“Yes Claire, you can and you will. Please. If you won’t accept it for yourself, take it for the child. I’m unlikely to ever have a child of my own. Let me do this for you. Please.”
“Alright, Frank. If it really means that much to you.” Claire said slowly.
“It does. Now, we can’t send through much. We’re hoping that we can send you with a bag of foodstuffs and a waterskin. You’ll have to be careful, but I imagine the water is cleaner in that time.”
“Yes and no. Fewer chemicals, more...feces. It doesn’t matter, I boil everything anyway.”
“Ah. Matches. We can send those too.”
“No. Flint and steel would be safer. If I have matches and someone sees they’ll accuse me of witchcraft.”
“Oh yes. Right. Flint and steel then. Can you think of anything else?”
“A couple of things actually. I’d like a two or three leather bound journals. Not lined, and some time in the public library. If I need to stay another five weeks, I plan to write down all the reliable information I can find on natural remedies. I’d also like some penicillin and a hypodermic needle. I’ll have to hide it, but it can literally mean the difference between life and death in childbirth. Most women didn’t die from the birth you know, but infection afterwards.”
Frank went a bit pale, but nodded. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“Thank you Frank.” Claire stood up. “I think I’ll go lie down for awhile. If I can get those notebooks, I’ll go to the library next week.”
Fiona spoke up. “Ye dinna need to go to the library. I’ve a fair number of books here at the manor, more than ye’ll find at the library in town. Mine are newer and the remedies have been tested. I can e’en help ye wit the copywork if ye’d like.”
“Oh thank you Fiona, I’ll take all the help I can get. There isn’t much time.”
Five weeks later, they were all in the car, Frank and Fiona and Claire. Reg was there too, to support Frank, although he didn’t really believe in the stones. Claire was once again dressed in her 1740’s garb, but with the addition of pockets in every conceivable hiding place and with a large sack, containing some food and a couple of blankets. When they got to the bottom of the hill, everyone got out. The climb wasn’t very arduous, but Frank felt as though his feet were made of lead. When they reached the top, Claire paused for a moment. Hugging Fiona, she thanked her for all of her help. She hugged Reg also and thanked him for his hospitality. Then she hugged Frank. It was the first time she had touched him since her return, and Frank was elated and devastated all at once.
“Thank you Frank. For everything.”
“You’re welcome Claire. Truly. Be happy.”
“I will. I know I will.”
“Claire. Can you do something for me?”
“Can you try and leave word somehow? Let me know that you made it safely? The Royal Bank of Scotland was founded in 1727. It still exists today. If you could leave me something, a letter, anything.”
“Yes Frank I will. I’ll also leave you something at Lallybroch. There is a priest hole there. I’ll leave you a message.”
“I’ll go and look for it in a few months.”
“Frank” Claire laughed and it was a carefree sound. Just the way she used to laugh he thought.
“You could go look for it today. It will be there.”
“Right. I forgot.”
“It’s time Claire. It’s best to go through at dawn.”
“Claire WAIT. Do you have the gemstone?”
“Yes.” Claire held up the sapphire.
“Well. Right then. God speed.”
Claire gave Frank another fierce hug. “You are a good man Frank Randall. Thank you.”
With that, Claire turned and went to the stone in the center. She laid both hands on it… and disappeared into thin air.
“MY GOODNESS!!!! It’s actually true!” Exclaimed Reg.
Frank didn’t say anything. He couldn’t. He just stood there and mourned her. Fiona didn’t say a word either, just gave Frank a look of deep sympathy, patted his arm and started back down the hill. After a minute, Frank followed. There was nothing left for him here.