The passengers began to disperse at once, smiling and stretching and chatting excitedly about what they were going to do now their world was more than 100 feet long again. Only Jack stayed, easing himself down so he was sitting on the wooden pier, swatting away the mosquitoes, looking out at the little fishing boats (the kind he himself had sailed, once) and behind him hearing the shrieks, giggles and tears of reunion. Two young soldiers laughed drunkenly, one teasing the other for not having found his land legs. Jack had grown fond of pointing out that this would never be a problem for him, on account of the fact that he didn't have any legs, but this time he stayed silent, looking out as the sun rose over the sea.
In fact, it would be an exaggeration to say Jack had no legs. He had maybe a quarter of his left leg, and more than half of his right leg, and these were supplemented by complex prosthetics made out of wood, leather and copper, which dangled over the edge of the pier. If you didn't look too closely, only the crutches would have given away that anything was wrong. His clean-shaven face perhaps looked a little older than his twenty-three years, but it was fairly handsome, and still framed with abundant brown curls.
"You mind me sitting here?"
Jack turned to see an old man he recognised from the ship, but hadn't spoken to. He shrugged. "Can't stop you," he said.
The man sat, groaning as he bent his knees, and gestured to a wooden box by Jack's side. "Are you the barber?" he said.
"I did some barbering on the ship," said Jack, still staring out to sea. He'd earned a little money that way, enough to feed him for a couple of weeks, if he were frugal.
"Reckon you're one of the lucky ones," said the man. "Reckon most of us old soldiers have no trade to come back to but begging."
Jack looked at the old man and laughed, still frowning. "Lucky?" he said.
"Lucky," repeated the man.
Jack noticed he was wearing a pair of pistols. "I tell you what," he said. "Give me your pistols and I'll give you my barbering kit."
The old man's eyes narrowed in suspicion. "Let me see the kit," he said. It was a fine one, with scissors, soap, two razors and two brushes. The old man picked one up and rubbed it against his cheek. "I'll give you one of my pistols," he said. "And a pocketful of bullets too."
Jack thought about it. One would be enough if his aim were true. "I need to see it works," he said. The old man handed it to him, and he loaded, cocked and then fired it towards a seagull on the beach, which fluttered clumsily up into the air, squawking in alarm. "Deal," he said.
"You're not ..." the old man began, then stopped.
"What?" said Jack.
"You're not planning on doing yourself in, are you?"
Jack laughed. "If I were man enough for that I'd have thrown myself off the ship a thousand miles ago."
The old man laughed too. "I know how that feels, son," he said, picking up the box. "Here, good luck to you. Look after yourself, all right?"
Jack tucked the pistol into his belt and waited for the old man to go before beginning the undignified process of standing up. Once he was propped upright, the crutches wedged in his armpits, he tried holding the gun again, feeling its weight. Experimentally, he held it to his own head, then quickly put it back in his belt. No. He still had work to do, and when it was done, there would be no need for effort or courage: the hangman would look after everything.
Jack turned towards Halifax. It was smaller than he'd imagined, and hemmed in between the sea and a big hill fort. Slowly, he started walking, firmly planting first his crutches, then his left leg, then his right leg in a slow, ungainly rhythm: one, two, three.
The houses near the sea were small and wooden: not unlike the cottages in Sherbrooke, but nearer the centre he could see bigger stone ones, and two church spires. He wondered which of the big stone houses he was making for.
He would recognise it when he saw it, of course. Barrett had told him what to look for on the day they first met. "Yes, my boy," he'd said. "Our ship belongs to the proprietor of the finest emporium in New Scotland. Once our voyage is done and you come back rich, that's where you'll want to head for. You'll see it at once: slap bang in the middle of Halifax, with the name emblazoned in gold above the front windows: E.M. Jones, Merchant."
Young Jack had looked again at the battered sloop. He had only seen little fishing boats before, but he knew when one was seaworthy and when it wasn't. "Are you sure, sir?" he'd asked.
Barrett laughed: "you have many things to learn, young man," he'd said, "and the first of them is this: not to judge by appearances. Now, which do you trust most? Your own opinion, or that of E.M. Jones, Merchant?" Barrett puffed out his chest and said the name in his most sonorous voice, and of course Jack felt humbled, and of course he signed up there and then, betting his life on the opinions of E.M. Jones.
That was six years ago. Now Jack hated all three of them: poor dead Barrett, rotting at the bottom of the sea; the naive youth who'd been seduced and broken by his lies until no naivety or youth remained; and most of all, E.M. Jones, still sitting fat and snug in his fine emporium.
He stopped to get his breath, leaning against the high wooden fence outside the grandest of the stone buildings. It was cold, for June. Or maybe he just wasn't used to it any more, or maybe his wrecked body was complaining like an old man's.
A liveried negro appeared from round a corner and furrowed his brows at Jack. "Be off with you," he said. "We've had enough of your sort hanging round here." He made a shooing gesture, then folded his arms.
Jack's anger was roused. "My sort?" he said. "What exactly do you mean by that?"
But the negro was joined by two more men in the same livery, so Jack stood up properly again, and moved off. As he went, he heard them muttering something about layabout ex-soldiers and Halifax going downhill.
Behind the big house was another row of stone buildings, some of them shops, but none of them with E.M. Jones emblazoned above the front windows. e stopped a middle-aged lady dressed in black. "Excuse me ma'am," he said. "I'm looking for E.M. Jones. The emporium, I mean?"
She blinked and frowned but also pointed southwards. "Second right and first left," she said.
"Much obliged," said Jack, clumsily raising his hat.
She nodded and walked on.
If the paint was gold once, it hadn't been for a long time, and so much had flaked off that a casual observer would have believed the emporium belonged to one "F.N. Jone". And it was much smaller than the more central shops. "Finest emporium in New Scotland" had been another of Barrett's lies then.
Jack's legs hurt. So did his shoulders and back. And the pain started to crowd out the anger. If someone had offered him the choice between a warm bed and this revenge against the man who had caused his suffering, he would have found it difficult to choose the latter. Sloth then, not fear, not his conscience, was all that stood between him and murder, and sloth could be overcome. The loaded pistol hung from his belt, and he stepped forward.
A middle-aged man with spectacles came out of the emporium and flipped the 'closed' sign to 'open'. He turned round, and his eyes flicked down to Jack's legs, then quickly up again to his face." Can I help you?" he said.
Jack's heart started beating faster. "Are you E.M. Jones?" he asked, his hand tightening round the pistol.
The man laughed. "Where have you been these five years?" he said.
It was five and a half years since the wreck, in fact, but even so, how did E.M. Jones know who he was? And how dare he laugh? At last Jack was riled. But the man went on. "This place hasn't been E.M. Jones's since ... when now? Not since 1779, I wouldn't think."
Jack looked at him. He had grown to distrust his own ability to tell when a man was lying. "I'm looking for Jones," he said.
"Jones moved away," said the old man. "The house on the corner of Acre Lane and Cowie Road, I think."
Jack nodded, choosing to believe the man for now. He could always come back if he needed to. "Much obliged," he said, not smiling.
Acre Lane and Cowie Road were on the other side of town, in the north west corner, furthest from the sea. It started to rain, churning the unpaved roads into mud, and soaking Jack's woollen cap and jacket. I'm cold, he said to himself. I'm cold and it's only June, I who was born in Sherbrooke in January and got up every morning in winter to break the ice on the animals' trough, and lasted longer than anyone when we swam in the frozen lake. He felt a sudden pang for those days, for his home, his brother and sister, and his mother.
Every step hurt now, but he didn't stop walking. His effort was meticulous, he couldn't allow himself to vent his frustration in the movement of his limbs: all too often that had sent him sprawling, and he couldn't allow that to happen: he had work to do. So instead the frustration hovered in his chest, and made its way upwards: shallow breath, gritted teeth, aching head.
It was perhaps half a mile, but by the time he got to Cowie Road, the sun was high in the sky. He had pictured E.M. Jones dwelling in a tall stone building, like the plantation houses in Montego Bay, but the wooden shacks here were smaller than the Sherbrooke cottage he'd grown up in, and packed closely together, in streets that stank of sewage and refuse. Grubby children played in the street, a drunkard reeled, a black-toothed woman leaned out of a window and asked Jack if he wanted a good time. He scowled at her.
So E.M. Jones had gone down in the world. Good. Or was he such a miser that he chose to live here rather than spend a farthing more than he had to? Or was it some kind of ruse to avoid paying tax? Perhaps Jack would ask the man before he shot him, or go through his papers afterwards and find out.
As he arrived at the house, he suddenly became afraid. What if something had gone wrong with his pistol? He dismissed the thought. He'd already checked it three times. He firmly planted his left crutch in the dirt outside the door and knocked with his right knuckle, quickly returning his hand to the pocket and the pistol.
No answer. He waited for a count of one hundred then knocked again. A few seconds later, he heard someone running down stairs, and then the door opened.
For some reason he had been expecting E.M. Jones to answer the door himself, but in front of him he saw a bare-headed mulatto woman, still in her shift as though his knocking had got her out of bed. "Yes?" she said.
"I'm here to see your master," he said.
The woman rudely folded her arms. "And who might that be?" she asked.
"E.M. Jones," said Jack. "Merchant."
"Who shall I say wants him?"
Jack paused. "My name's Jack Rogers," he said. "The last of Barrett's Privateers."
Her eyes widened, and she stared at him for a moment. "You'd better come in," she said.
She led him into a kitchen which smelt damp and rotten. There were mouse-droppings on the earthen floor, and the wooden planks which made the internal walls were badly in need of some attention. She offered him a stool by the table. He hesitated for a moment then sat down, annoyed with himself for needing to do so. It is not good to accept hospitality from one's enemy, but neither would it be good to be thwarted by his inability to stand up for long. She remained standing, arms folded, searching him with big, brown, puzzled eyes
"They told me you all died," she said.
"Not quite," said Jack. He glared at her for a moment, then spoke again. "Where is he? I want to speak with him."
"There is no 'he'," said the woman. "I am E.M. Jones."
He should have shot her there and then. He could have done it without thinking, without caring about her sex, without curiosity about how a woman (and a mulatto at that!) came to be owning a ship. But the moment passed, and the pistol remained in his pocket, and he wasn't sure, but those might have been tears in her eyes.
"Barrett told me you were rich," he said.
"I was," she said. "Or richer than this, anyway." She looked around at the damp walls, the earthen floor, the broken pans.
"Same as happened to you," she said. "Barrett. The Antelope. He told me I'd quadruple my money in a few months. I gave him all I had."
"Not all," said Jack, trembling with anger. "You still have somewhere to live. You still have your legs."
She looked at the floor. "The legs I concede," she said. "And I'm sorry, for what it's worth. But everything else? No. Once I'd paid my debts I was left with nothing but myself and the clothes I was wearing."
"Then how do you live?"
She looked at him again, and sat down on the bench opposite him, elbows resting on the kitchen table. "My clothes were worth nothing," she said. "And anyway, once they're gone, they're gone. But my body? That I can sell night after night. Everything I have, I've earned."
Jack took this in, wondering how old she was. Thirty? Forty? It was hard to tell. Her body was a strange mixture of strength and feminine grace, with broad shoulders and hips and a narrow waist. Yes, he could see how she could earn a living from whoring. Her black hair was neatly braided in cornrows, but her skin was light brown, light enough for her to pass as an Italian or a Greek, if she covered her head. "I've come to extract my due from you," he said.
"I thought perhaps you had," she said, meeting his gaze, not showing any emotion. "Of course, if you'd accept payment in kind ..." She smiled at him, and raised an eyebrow.
He stared at her, furious and repelled, then slowly drew his pistol and pointed it at her chest. Her shoulders flinched a little, but her face remained calm. He cocked the pistol, trying to whip up enough hatred to pull the trigger. This was the E.M. Jones whose greed for money had caused the death of twenty men, and all his own misfortune. But he didn't shoot. This was not the E.M. Jones whom he had imagined, whom he had dreamed of killing for five long years. He lowered the pistol and placed it on the table. Then he put his head in his hands and sighed.
"Sorry," she said. "I shouldn't have ... but I just ... do you want money? I have some savings."
"I want your life," said Jack. But I'm not man enough to take it. He looked up at her pretty face. Why not though? Fuck her then kill her. Yes. That is what a man would do, and the idea of it aroused his passion. He stood up, and, leaning heavily on the table with one hand, took hold of her arm in the other, pretending to himself that he was forcing her, even as she helped him upstairs.
It was over very quickly, and Emma got up almost at once and started primping her hair in front of a cracked mirror. Jack lay on the bed in his shirt, feeling the brief euphoria drain away. He had hoped that it would be easier to kill her once he had fucked her, the two acts being analogous. In fact it was more difficult, because now there was no getting away from the fact that she was a woman.
"What's your Christian name?" he said.
"Emma," she replied. "Emma Mary Short until I married."
"What happened to your husband?" asked Jack.
"Tuberculosis," said Emma. "Do you want your clothes?" She picked them up and started neatly piling them on the bed. She hesitated for a moment before picking up his legs and putting them on the top of the pile.
"Do you really think a fuck is payment enough for what you did to me?" he asked. "For what you did to the others?" He pointed the pistol at her again.
"Of course not," she said. "Nothing would be payment enough for that. Except–"
"Except what?" he spat the words at her.
"Barrett conned me too," she said. "And the man who sold me the Antelope conned both of us."
He mimicked a woman's voice, high-pitched and ugly: "The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat."
Her face hardened in anger, but her voice stayed calm. "Yes," she said. "Exactly so. It's been happening since the beginning of time. That's what human beings are: we want all the good things, but we don't want to work for them, so we look for short cuts, and we don't think overly hard about who might get hurt in the process. You're no different. What made you go if not greed for gold?"
"I was sixteen," said Jack. He remembered his mother crying as he left, and his big brother Paul with his arm round her, and his little sister Primrose standing at the gate and waving with all her strength. He remembered his sister-in-law Jane's big belly – the twins would be almost six now. "I didn't do it for me, or at least not just for me." He'd dreamed of coming back loaded with emeralds and rubies. A gold ring for his mother, and necklaces for Primrose and Jane. And he'd build all of them a big house, and they'd have servants, and Paul would be mayor and everyone in the Sherbrooke would call his mother "ma'am".
"For your family?" asked Emma.
Jack nodded. The gun was back by his side. He hadn't even noticed himself lowering it.
"Will you go back to them now?" Then there was a note of hope in her voice. "Do you need money? I can help. I can pay to get you back there."
"I'm not going back," said Jack. "My mother's dead, and the others are struggling enough without another useless mouth to feed." He'd heard from them twice in the past six years. A letter had preceded him to Montego Bay. Smallpox had come. His mother was dead and Primrose was sick. And three years ago there had been a travelling preacher who'd been through Sherbrooke and seen them all: Joe and Jane had three children, and another on the way. The harvest had failed and they'd had to sell the farm and move into the cottage, all six of them.
"Where will you go?" There was pity in her voice, and he didn't like it.
"That's none of your concern." He sat up and started to put on his shirt. Where would he go? What would he do? If he was too much of a coward to avenge his friends, then what was left?
"You can stay here for as long as you like," she said impulsively. "I owe you that at least."
What could be more despicable than to accept his enemy's hospitality? But he just didn't have the energy to move. He lay back down again and closed his eyes, without speaking.
"Only you're going to have to go to my spare room," said Emma. "I'm going to need this bed for work tonight."
Emma stared at her reflection in the looking glass, and applied some rouge, inspecting herself for new wrinkles. Five years ago, when she's started all this, she could have had a dozen men a night had she the stamina for it, but her stash of gold and silver was growing at a slower rate by the month, and she feared she was getting old. She was nearly there though! Soon she would be able to move away and make a new start, far inland, far away from the sea.
She would find a small town somewhere – but one that was growing – and buy a little shop. If there was one thing she knew, it was how to spot what people would buy, and how to sell it to them. And just as it had before, her little shop would turn into a bigger one, and then perhaps a bigger one still; but this time she would keep on doing it the slow way, and never again be tempted by promises of easy wealth, or by any promise made by a man.
She placed the lamp in her window, and leaned out, enjoying the last of the sun on her face. Soon they would come. Please God, no-one too difficult tonight. No-one diseased, no-one too rough, no-one who wanted her to listen to their sorrows. She'd been deliberately not thinking about the man in her spare room, but now she couldn't help it. He had fucked her urgently, almost desperately, and it struck her that thought he wanted the illusion of violence and power over her, he needed the comfort and closeness of skin against skin.
What had she done, inviting him to stay? What if he wanted to stay forever? Did she really owe him that? It would be as bad as having a husband again. As bad as Barrett. Worse, maybe.
She replaced her smile and rearranged her bodice, winking at a couple of passing sailors, young men (oh God, had he really only been sixteen?) She liked young men best. They were all bravado when they were with their friends, but once she got them on their own they were shy and gentle. Besides, most of them hadn't had enough time to get diseased yet. One nudged the other, and they both looked at her, then walked on, laughing and blushing.
What was Jack doing now? Sleeping? Weeping? Poor kid. If he were right about his family, then what was there for him? Then an unpleasant thought: how many more years would she have to do this for if she wanted to set him up in an honest trade as well as herself?
First customer of the night. Yes, a shilling, payment in advance. Yes, she did do that, but it cost extra. She led him upstairs and lay there prettily, flirting and giggling as he undressed. Perhaps in the morning, Jack would feel better about his family. How did he know they were struggling, anyway? And of course they wouldn't think he was useless. The man lifted her skirts, and it began, the familiar pounding rhythm, hands on her breast, lips on her neck. She would persuade him to get a letter written.
"What's that?" The man stopped.
"Hmm?" She opened her eyes.
From the spare room she heard a whimper then a muted half-scream.
"It's my lodger," she said. "Ignore him."
The man gave a couple more half-hearted thrusts then stopped. "What's the matter with him?" he asked. "It's off-putting."
"I don't know."
They both listened, but the noise stopped, and the man started grinding again. Emma panted and moaned loudly to mask any further noise. Then it was over and the man went, without leaving a tip.
Emma picked up the lamp in the window and went into Jack's room. He was curled up on the bed, sobbing like a child.
"What's the matter?" she said, trying to hide her anger.
Jack's eyes darted open and he stared at her with hostility. "I just had a nightmare," he said. "Leave me alone."
Suddenly she felt very tired. That was it: she was damned if she'd take any more customers tonight. Without another word, she went back to her bed and blew out the lamp.
Emma felt better for a night's sleep. It felt good to get up at dawn, almost like being an honest woman again. Her heart sank a little as she remembered her guest, but she decided this was churlish, and went down to the kitchen to cook him some porridge for breakfast. Perhaps he would be calmer after a night's sleep.
As he ate, she lingered in the doorway, wondering how best to bring up the subject of his future, and more specifically, when he intended to start having it. "If you don't mind me asking," she began, then continued hurriedly, before he could say he did. "What have you been doing for the past five years, or however long it is?"
"Prisoner of war, wasn't I?" This was not entirely true. Jack had officially been a prisoner of war, but the captain of the Yankee ship that pulled him out of the sea had seen to it that he could lodge with the ship's surgeon, now settled in Martinique, and not among the disease and squalor of the camps.
"But the war ended almost two years ago." He was silent, so she pressed him. "How did you earn the money for your passage back? And for your pistol?"
"I was a barber," he said. Doctor Daniet had taught him some barbering, and given him the kit too, though the money had come from Captain Rockwell.
Emma could have clapped her hands. Of course! You don't need legs or any particular skills to earn a living as a barber. And she was sure it wouldn't cost much to pick up a set of razors and so on for him, and he wouldn't need his own premises, but could sit in someone else's shop, and she wouldn't have to worry about him anymore. "The man I saw last night said there's a terrible shortage of barbers in Halifax," she lied. "I tell you what, I could set you up in business."
He sighed and glared at her as though this suggestion was so obviously stupid that it didn't even deserve an answer. She smiled brightly. "I'll look into it then," she said, taking the empty bowl away.
It was the first time in more than two years that Jack had slept in a proper bed, but nowadays bodily comfort left him feeling disgusted with himself. He fell asleep almost at once, but it was a fitful, uneasy sleep, full of nightmares. He awoke before dawn, and made himself stay awake, and tried to distract himself from thinking about the day the Antelope was destroyed. He didn't want to think about it, it didn't do any good to think about it. If nothing else, it should have bored him, the number of times he'd been over it. He dug his nails into his palms, stared at the untreated (and half rotten) planks dividing this room from the next one, and tried to think about something else. Sex. Revenge. The old days back in Sherbrooke. But he couldn't help it, the memories came surging up, unstoppable as the tide.
He used to think this was madness, the waking nightmares, but one of his fellow prisoners had another name for it. El mal de corazón. Sickness of the heart, the soldier's malady.
It started (as always) with the sounds. Not so much the cannons, or the cracking timber, but the human sounds, the screaming and whimpering of dying men and boys. And once he had heard them there was no going back, and so he relaxed his muscles and let the past engulf him.
He was dimly aware when Emma entered the room, and fought with his own mind to be there with her, and not back on the Antelope. The porridge helped, the heat on his tongue bringing the present dimly back to him.
He forced himself to listen when she spoke. "What have you been doing for the past five years, or however long it is?"
"Prisoner of war, wasn't I?"
"But the war ended almost two years ago." But then the screaming started again, and he struggled to hear her voice over it. "How did you earn the money for your passage back? And for your pistol?"
"I was a barber," was the last thing he managed to say before he was there again, and the mast was crashing down, and pain turned everything to white light for a moment–
"... a terrible shortage of barbers in Halifax ..."
–and he was under the water, still trapped, lungs bursting; until the carcase of the ship lurched downwards again, setting him free to float upwards into the sunlight and air.
By the time Emma came back, Jack felt empty and numb again. He was sat up in bed, cleaning his fingernails with his knife.
"I went into town," she said. "I took a look at a catalogue."
He didn't look at her. He didn't reply.
"The man in the store let me bring it back to show you," she said, and sat on the edge of the bed. "See?"
He looked. There was a drawing of a wooden box with a set of razors and brushes and soap.
"Why would anyone need five different shaving brushes?" he asked.
"Don't ask me," said Emma. "I thought it was something men understood." She tilted her head to look at the picture. "They seem to be different sizes," she said, then flicked back a couple of pages. "Or there's a simple set, if you prefer. That's only got two."
"I don't prefer," said Jack. "I don't prefer anything."
"You've got to think about the future," said Emma.
"No I don't," said Jack. "I don't have a future."
Emma did a quick mental calculation. "You're twenty-three," she said. "Things might seem bad now, but there's a lot of time for them to get better."
"What do you know about it?" said Jack, turning over to face the wall.
"When I was twenty-three I was still a slave," said Emma. "Six months before I tried to run away, and I was whipped so bad I thought I was going to die, and I could still hardly stand up, and it was a year before I could lie on my back again."
Jack stared at her. A slave? The E.M. Jones of his imagination faded yet further away from reality. Still, that was no excuse. "One of the men on the Antelope used to be a slave," he said. "You could see the scars where they'd whipped him the first and second times he ran away, but the third he made it. He was a good man, and his wife–"
"Yes," interrupted Emma. "I understand. The sailors on the Antelope, the sailors who died on the Antelope were all human beings, with lives and wives and children and stories and pasts, and some of them were like me in some ways–"
"Pasts," interrupted Jack, "but no futures."
"What are you trying to do?" For the first time, her voice betrayed anger. "Yes, they're dead, and yes that's partly my fault, and partly their own, and partly Barrett's and partly George goddamn Washington's and mostly a hell of a lot of other people's. But no amount of sorrow or remorse will bring them back, and nor will my death nor yours nor anyone else's."
Jack quietly persisted. "And his wife was pregnant when he left. Her name was Annie, and he said she was the prettiest girl in Nova Scotia, and when she agreed to marry him, he danced all night, on his own once she'd gone to bed, because he'd never in all his life thought he could ever be that happy."
"I'm going," said Emma. "I need to get ready for tonight." She paused. "It's ... it's not good for you to stay here, Jack. It's not good for either of us."
"Are you throwing me out?"
"No," said Emma. "No, of course not. But–"
"Good," said Jack.
"I'll bring you some supper," said Emma. "Perhaps you could help me cook? You could sit and chop onions for me."
"I may not be man enough to do much," said Jack. "But I'm man enough not to do my own cooking when there's a woman in the house to do it for me."
Emma added another item to her list of reasons not to like men.
Jack slept, and when he woke again it was dark. From behind the thin wall by his bed, he heard the sounds of energetic fucking. He put his hands over his ears and rolled over, but the sounds only got louder.
"Stop it!" That was Emma's voice. "Get off me ..." And then he heard her choking. He sat up in bed and grabbed his pistol. She was a lady and he was a guest in her house and she was in danger. For the moment, that instinct overpowered the other one that told him she was his enemy and he wanted her dead. But what did it matter since he was helpless either to kill her or save her?
Perhaps she was dead already. No, he could hear her gasping for breath. He turned to the wall. Perhaps there was a crack he could see through, not that that would ... wait. Using the butt of his pistol, he hit the wall as hard as he could, then hit it again. The rotten wood gave way and there was a hole big enough to see through, to shoot through.
The man grappling with Emma on the bed was small and slight, with a neat ginger beard. At the sound of splintering wood, both turned to stare at him. Jack took aim. He couldn't be sure of hitting him rather than her, but what did that matter? At last he would be doing something.
A bullet hit the man's chest, and he lurched towards Emma, his hands round her neck again. Jack reloaded, but by the time he had fired, the man had slumped backwards onto the bed and then sideways onto the floor, and Emma had a knife in her hand. Her face was white, and she was still coughing and choking. She stared at Jack without a word. There was blood all over her, the bed and the floor.
Why didn't she say anything? Jack had a terrible thought: what if he hadn't been attacking her at all? What if it had all been a game?
Eventually, she touched her left arm. "I'm shot," she said. Then she shook her head. "Sorry. Thank you, I mean. If it wasn't for you I'd be dead."
He wanted to go to her. "Come to me," he said. "Let me see the wound." He pushed the broken planks away so there was room for her to come through.
Even her lips looked pale, almost blue. She didn't move, but looked down at the man at her feet. Then, shaking, she stepped over him – it – and sat beside Jack on the bed.
"You're very strong," she said.
Was he? He hadn't thought about it before. But he supposed that if using his arms to drag his body around all day was good for something, it was making them strong. Gently, he rolled up the sleeve of her shift. A good chunk of flesh was gone, but the bullet hadn't hit the bone or a major blood vessel. "It's not too bad," he said, and took out his knife to start tearing the bed sheet into bandages.
"I feel sick," she said. Her breathing was shallow and quick.
Jack started packing the wound. "That's normal," he said.
She groaned. No, wait. It wasn't her. Both of them looked through the wall and saw the bearded man stir, a hideous, convulsive movement. Emma began shaking violently again. "Oh God," she said.
"Here," said Jack, wrapping a piece of cloth round her arm, and placing her right hand over it. "Hold this. Don't let go. It's all right."
She looked at him blankly. He patted her on the leg, then let himself down onto the floor in the next room, and crawled over to the bearded man. One bullet had hit him in the chest, and judging from his breathing, it had got his lung. The other had hit his belly, and he was bleeding profusely. Jack had seen cases like this before. The man was going to die. This did not worry Jack. What worried him was that he might take a week over it.
Jack glanced behind him. Emma seemed to have recovered some of her colour. "We should get help," she said.
"He's past help," said Jack.
"We should get help," repeated Emma.
"We should finish him off," said Jack. "If we don't want to get hanged, that is."
"It was self defence," said Emma. "He was killing me."
"Look at him," said Jack. "Look at his clothes. He's quality, that one. The likes of you and me wouldn't stand a chance if we got caught. He's dead anyway." Jack drew his knife.
"Stop!" said Emma. "I'll take the blame. Please. I don't want to kill anyone else. I'll get a surgeon." She stood up.
"I worked with a surgeon for four years," said Jack. "I know a hopeless case when I see one."
The man coughed, and a bit of blood came up. "Help," he said weakly. Then louder: "help."
Emma walked over and knelt beside him, still holding the rag to her arm. "I'll do it," she said, and, letting the rag fall to the floor, took her knife from where it lay on the bed. Then she pushed it into his neck, and drew it toward her, before mechanically picking up the rag and holding it to her arm again. She did not look away for a moment as he choked and bubbled to death.
Emma stared, and felt the weakness and nausea take her again. I am a murderer, she told herself. I've been a murderer for the past five and a half years, and only now do I know what it feels like. But there was no time for thinking. No sooner had the man breathed his last than there was a loud knocking at the door. Emma turned to Jack in horror, before leaping to her feet, and shrugging on a loose gown to hide her bloody shift. She ran downstairs, almost tripping.
Four of her neighbours were outside the door. One, a hard-faced woman who always scowled at her in the street, said. "We heard a gunshot."
"I'm all right," said Emma. "It was an accident. I hurt my arm, but not badly." She showed them the blood that had soaked through the loose gown's sleeves.
"Where's the man?" said the hard-faced woman, wiping her nose on her sleeve. She must have the influenza that was going round. "I saw a man come in."
"He's upstairs," said Emma. "It was his gun. He was showing me how it works and it went off."
By now some more people had gathered, to see what was going on.
"I want to see him," said the woman. "Make him come down."
"He can't come down," said Emma. "He's a cripple."
"A likely story," said the woman, and tried to push past Emma, who barred her way. The woman turned. "Help!" she said. "Murder! There's been a murder!"
"Stop it!" said Emma, then called up the stairs. "Jack! Jack, come down! They want to see you. They think I killed you."
The people jostled to get a look as Jack appeared at the top of the stairs, undeniably alive, undeniably a cripple.
The woman took a step back, looking disappointed.
"He's got blood on him!" said someone. "Are you all right, mister?"
"I'm fine," said Jack. "It's from the lady's wound. I was bandaging it."
"All right?" said Emma, looking around at everyone. "Have you seen enough? Well, good day to you." And she shut the door in their faces.
"Oh God," said Emma, staying at the bottom of the stairs, and lightly touching the sleeve of her gown, where the blood was coming through. "What are we going to do?"
"Come back up and let me finish bandaging you," said Jack.
"But the body ..." she said. Her thoughts were in disorder, she couldn't grasp them, couldn't make a plan.
"Let's solve the easy problems before worrying about the difficult ones."
She nodded. That made sense. But she didn't move. Upstairs there was ... it wasn't that she hadn't seen dead bodies before, hadn't seen people who'd died violently, but this was different. But no. Putting the Antelope to sea, that, if anything, was murder. This was self defence. You're getting soft in your old age, my girl. She gritted her teeth and walked upstairs, then sat down at the top next to Jack.
Jack. She'd wanted to do right by him and never see him again, but they were linked now, linked twice over. She owed him twice over, and Emma didn't like owing anyone anything. It hurt when he attended to her arm, but she didn't flinch or cry out, and that small bravery made everything a little easier.
"Who was he?" said Jack, once he'd finished.
"No idea," said Emma. "Just a man. It's an occupational hazard." She glanced nervously behind her. Blood was seeping out from under the bedroom door. "What are we going to do?" she repeated.
"We have to hide the body," said Jack. "Or else destroy it. That would be better."
"How?" she said. "We can hardly take it out of the house."
"We could try to burn it," said Jack. "If we cut it up first, then–"
Emma felt sick, and put both hands over her mouth. "Oh God," she said.
"All right then," said Jack. "We could douse him in lamp oil and burn the whole house. It's rented, isn't it? And probably insured."
"The fire would spread," said Emma. "Who knows how many innocent people we'd kill."
Jack looked at her darkly. "That never bothered you before," he said. "And come to think of it, why shouldn't I just let them hang you?"
"They'd hang you too," said Emma.
"Maybe," said Jack. "And maybe I wouldn't care."
And what answer did Emma have, except that she wanted so much to live? "We should search the body," she said, struck with a sudden hope. "Find out who he is. Maybe he's a known criminal. You know, wanted dead or alive."
"Go on then," said Jack.
She didn't move.
"Or did you want me to do your dirty work again to save your delicate feminine sensibilities? Damn that, woman. If you're man enough to screw people over buying up half-wrecked ships, then you're man enough to search a corpse. Besides, you're going to have to be the one who lugs it to wherever we're hiding it." His glare supplied 'and we all know whose fault that is'.
Yesterday she hadn't been afraid of him. He hadn't seemed to her like a killer. She had felt guilty, and annoyed with him for making her feel guilty, and frustrated that anyone could be so useless, but that frustration had also made her feel safe. And today she had seen him act with resolution. She had almost liked him for a few moments. But she also knew she had reason to feel afraid.
Still. He was quite right, and annoying him couldn't make anything better, so she steeled herself to return to the bedroom. It's nothing, she told herself. You were laying out dead bodies when you were ten. Jack stayed where he was.
First she pulled a gold ring from his finger, and slipped it under her mattress. It wouldn't do him any good, and it would save her a month of whoring, maybe more. Then she searched the pockets of his woollen coat, hanging up on the back of her chair: a few shillings, a tobacco pouch monogrammed with E.S., a soiled handkerchief, and a little notebook. She put the notebook and the money on her dressing table, replaced the handkerchief and tobacco, then searched his other pockets. All were empty.
"Anything interesting?" called Jack.
"A pocket book," said Emma, returning to the top of the stairs. Despite everything, it was comforting to sit next to someone else, someone alive.
It was a ledger. "He seems to have been a money lender," said Emma, flicking through. "Oh, he was called Ezekiel Sluddard. Ugh, he charged some poor woman 100% a day."
"Usurers don't generally have a price on their head," said Jack. "So that doesn't help."
"I don't get what these entries at the back are," said Emma. "£100 in respect of Abel Rowe; £150 in respect of Capt. Rochwell; £80 in respect of ... oh."
"What?" said Jack. Emma had gone pale again.
"£80 in respect of E.M. Jones." She paused. "Then maybe it wasn't ... but that's ridiculous! Why would anyone want me dead?"
Jack looked at her.
"Apart from you, I mean."
"Can I suggest," said Jack, "that we worry about that later? We have a body on our hands. It will be starting to go stiff already, which will make it harder to hide."
"Maybe we should just turn ourselves in," said Emma. "There's evidence here that he's a killer. If it turns out that Abel Rowe and Captain Rochwell are dead–"
"... then we may well be accused of their murders too," pointed out Jack. "Your 'evidence' is easily faked. Do what you wish though, I won't stop you."
"No," said Emma. "You're right. Maybe we could bury him under the kitchen. The floor is only packed earth."
"Packed tight," said Jack. "Try digging if you want to, and I'll even help so far as I can, but it'll take days at best, and you can bet those neighbours of yours will be interested to see what you're up to."
"Do you have any better ideas?" asked Emma.
Jack just smiled at her and shrugged.
"We can wet it," she said. "Last spring it flooded, and it was like a swamp in there. Right. I'll get the water. We can use it to mop up the blood first."
She ran downstairs and came up with a full bucket, rags, a mop and a scrubbing brush. "Do you want to start mopping while I go to the pump for more?" she said.
"No," said Jack, still smiling.
Emma restrained the urge to hit him. "You saved my life," she said. "Did you do that just so you torment me then watch me hang? Because if so, then–"
Jack held up his hands. "I didn't say I wouldn't," he said. "Just I didn't want to. Put the bucket in the bedroom and I'll get to work like an obedient little housemaid."
By morning, the bloody bedclothes were boiling in a big copper pan, the mattress had been turned, the floor was cleaner than it had been in years, and the sun was drying a long thin muddy patch in the kitchen.
"What about our clothes?" said Jack.
Both of them were filthy with mud and blood. "I'll burn them," said Emma. "I've got spares, and I can buy you something in the morning." She looked out at the sun. "Today, I mean."
"What'll we do now?" said Jack, rubbing his arms. He had done more than half of the digging, sitting on the floor with a coal shovel.
"Sleep?" said Emma. She knew that there were dozens of things they should be doing, but she couldn't think straight enough to know what they were, let alone do them. "Just for a bit, I mean."
"How do you want to get upstairs?" said Emma. "I can carry you if you like?"
Jack sighed. "Sure," he said.
She carried him on his back. Absurdly, this felt far more intimate than when they'd fucked. I have to get out of this trade, she thought as she let him down onto the spare bed. Then she paused. Where would she sleep? Not in her bed, not where she'd ... The kitchen then? No, that was worse.
"What's the matter now?" said Jack. He glanced through the hole in the wall. "Oh. Yes. Well, we could share this one?"
"Yes please," said Emma quietly. She felt like a little girl again, creeping into her mammy's bed when she'd had a nightmare. Maybe he'll stab me in my sleep, she thought. But maybe right now I don't care.
Jack woke up as Emma was getting out of bed, and watched her put on a clean shift, and a different skirt and bodice. She eased the sleeves on slowly over her left arm, and he could see it hurt her to move it, more than it had yesterday. When she turned, he snapped his eyes shut, unwilling to admit to being awake yet. His shoulders ached. Everything ached. Yesterday he'd found it increasingly difficult to feel angry with her, and now it felt almost impossible. What was happening? Had he forgiven her? He tried to tell himself that would be unmanly, but it didn't wash. He remembered how she'd lain in his arms, her head nestling against his collarbone; he remembered bandaging her arm: those were the times he'd felt like a real man. When he remembered threatening her, he felt like a fool and a coward.
"Jack? Are you awake?"
"Hmm?" Jack opened his eyes.
Emma came in and sat on the bed. "I've just thought of something," she said. "Rockwell was the name of the Captain of the Opportunity." The Yankee ship that had sunk the Antelope.
"He was," said Jack. "I knew him well. So what?"
"I think I misread the ledger," said Emma. "His 'k's are like 'h's – I think the name before mine is Captain Rockwell." She frowned. "Wait a minute, how could you know Captain Rockwell?" And if he's the one who sank the Antelope, why aren't you trying to kill him?"
"How do you think I survived?" said Jack. "They fished me out of the sea like a tuna, and dumped me in sickbay for their surgeon to tidy up. Captain Rockwell was already there. He was delirious with some kind of fever."
"So he wasn't in command when the Antelope got sunk."
"No," said Jack. "That was the Lieutenant. He was a bastard, but Rockwell was a good man. He let me have the better of the sickbay bunks and when we got ashore he paid for my wooden legs. Let me see that." Jack took the ledger from Emma's hands. "Captain Rockwell ..." he said. "I hope he's all right. Maybe we should go and see?"
"Go and see?" said Emma.
"Well," said Jack. "I assume you don't want to stay here. It looks like someone paid our friend in the kitchen a lot of money for your life. You can bet he's not going to give up now."
"Dear God," said Emma. "I hadn't thought of that." She looked around fearfully, as though there might be an assassin already lurking in the house. "But why, Jack? Why would someone want to go round killing people associated with the Antelope disaster? I don't think there's anything else that links us. And why wait six years? And why not you?"
"No idea," said Jack. "But I think we should go to New York. Rockwell gave me his address there and told me to go to him if I needed more help after the war was over. Perhaps he'll be able to shed light on some of this, and if he is in danger, perhaps we'll be able to warn him."
Emma returned from a trip to the harbour with some good news, some bad news, and a large parcel.
"There's a merchantman leaving for New York tomorrow," she said, sitting down on Jack's bed, but not smiling. "And I've paid for us both to have passage."
"What's in the parcel?" said Jack. "Did you get me some clothes?"
"Yes," said Emma, keeping it out of his reach. "Jack, what does your brother look like?"
"Paul? Tall, broad-shoulders, brown beard. Why?"
"Taller than you?"
"I overheard someone asking the harbourmen about you. Said he was your brother, come to find you and bring you home, but he was only your height."
Jack frowned. "What did he look like?"
"I didn't see really his face," said Emma. "But he knows what you look like, and he knows about your legs, and one of the harbourmen told him you'd come off the ship yesterday. Jack, what if he comes from whoever sent Sluddard? Can you think of anyone else it might be?"
"No. And anyway, if he was honest, why would he lie about being my brother?"
"Exactly," said Emma. "So I've bought you a disguise." She began unwrapping the parcel. "I thought you could pretend to be my grandmother," she continued. "If you were old, that would explain why you need crutches, and the long skirt will cover what's actually wrong. And you can wrap a shawl round your head and neck, and cover most of your face, and if you keep your head down then–"
"No!" said Jack. "No. And I don't believe you're even asking me. Isn't it enough that you've ruined my life, without humiliating me as well? There are hundreds of disguises you could have chosen, and–"
"Name one," said Emma.
"I could wear a false beard."
"Oh wonderful," said Emma. "So instead of 'there goes that scowling man with no legs', people will say 'there goes that scowling man with no legs and a big bushy beard'. You're too distinctive, Jack."
"And whose fault is that?"
"Don't you ever get bored?" said Emma. "I am not about to forget what I've done. And you know what? Every time you remind me, I feel a little less guilt, a little less sympathy, and a little more inclined to leave you to rot in Halifax." She sighed, and tried to speak calmly again. "I've bought you men's clothes as well. You could change once we've set sail, if you're careful about it, and the assassin isn't on board. Please, Jack."
Jack started pulling the grandmotherly clothes towards him, still scowling at Emma.
Emma couldn't wait to get out. She had never liked Halifax, or her house, or her work, and now it made her sick to the stomach just to be there. However hard she tried, she couldn't stop thinking about what was under her kitchen floor, already rotting, she supposed. She sent two month's rent to her landlord, explaining that she was travelling for a while, but what would happen after two months? New tenants? What if it flooded? She told herself she had two months to worry about that. Now the important thing was to escape, to find out who wanted her dead, and why, to stop them if she could, and if not, give herself a new name and a new life.
But deep in her belly she felt that heavy knowledge that wherever she went, whatever she did, whatever she called herself, she was a murderer now, and never again would she feel free from the fear of discovery.
At least nowadays she was no longer poor. She clung to that idea like a child to its favourite doll. She put most of her gold, silver and jewellery at the bottom of her bag, but put some in her pockets, and after hesitating for a moment, asked Jack to take a share too.
He laughed. "You trust me not to steal them?" he said.
"No," she replied, "I trust myself to be able to catch you if you dare try."
She thought that Jack looked rather fetching as a lady, but of course she was sensible enough not to say that. She was also sensible enough not to complain about her arm hurting – although of course it did – as she was certain that Jack would see it as an opportunity to underline how much worse his own suffering was.
Between her skirt and her coat, she strapped on her husband's pistols, and as always she carried her knife. She wore a demure coif that entirely covered her hair, aware that she too could be said to look 'distinctive'.
The journey to the harbour was uneventful, though slow. Emma found it hard to moderate her pace, and bit her lip in frustration. She would be much happier when they were aboard the ship, and away from whoever was hunting Jack – and for all she knew, hunting her as well.
Then she saw him – she was sure it was him. He had the same blue coat and brown breeches, the same feathered hat. And he was behaving in the same way too, hanging around on Holles Street, smoking a pipe, watching far too closely the people who passed by. Her heart beating fast, she leant over and whispered in Jack's ear: "Keep your head down. That's him outside the Mather Meeting House."
The man's eyes rested on the two of them, and he stopped leaning but stood up properly, as though to get a better look. Emma wished she'd gone another way, but of course it would be foolish to turn back now. Instead she smiled, and nodded her head to the man. "Good day to you," she said.
He raised his feathered hat. "And a good day to you too, ma'am."
He was a disreputable looking character, with a pock-marked face, grimy clothes and stubby little hands. He seemed to be about to say something else, but Emma put her arm round Jack's shoulders and hurried him on as well as she could.
The ship was a sloop like the Antelope, though bigger and in a much better state of repair.
"We have a cabin?" asked Jack, easing himself down onto the lower bunk and looking around the tiny room. "How much did this cost?" He started taking off his skirts and shawls.
"I'm sorry it's so small," said Emma.
"I thought we'd be sleeping among the cargo," said Jack.
"Oh," said Emma. "I didn't know we could." But on reflection, she didn't regret spending the money, though of course she resented it. She had enough to worry about without fending off the advances of the crew and other passengers. So far as she could see, she was the only woman there. "It's very strange," she added, "the way it moves around even though we haven't set off yet. Did I mention I've never been on a ship before?"
Jack looked at her. He didn't think he'd ever met anyone who hadn't been on a ship.
"I went on a ferry once," said Emma. "It went up and down awfully much. I had never been so sick in my life. But big ships aren't like that, are they?"
Half a day into the journey, Emma had produced such a prodigious amount of vomit that Jack wondered how it had all fitted inside her. She sat on the top bunk with a bucket between her knees, groaning.
"There's nothing left," she said. "I think I've puked up all my internal organs and so with any luck I'm about to drop down dead."
"I'll empty the bucket," said Jack. "Pass it down."
She blurrily watched him limp off with one crutch, and the bucket in his other hand.
"I'm impressed," she said, when he got back with a clean bucket. "I don't think I could walk in this – oh God." She started retching again.
"Now I understand why people say it's bad luck to have a woman aboard a ship," said Jack, lying down, closing his eyes, and trying to ignore the smell.
"Distract me," said Emma. "Tell me more about this Captain Rockwell we're going to see."
"I told you," said Jack. "He was a good man. He took care of me. He must have spent more than ten pounds what with my legs, and the doctors and my upkeep."
"Why?" said Emma.
"What do you mean 'why'?" said Jack. "Why does there need to be a 'why'?"
"Did he fancy you?" said Emma.
"Fancy me?" Jack pondered this. He had met sailors who ... you know. No-one spoke about it, of course, it was just a thing that happened sometimes. "He didn't try to make me ... do anything," he said. "But he was quite fastidious in his personal habits, and always had a clean handkerchief." He paused while Emma threw up again. "And come to think of it, he did make me shave him twice a day."
"There you go then," said Emma groggily. "Some men like that, you know. Some think it's better than fucking."
Jack digested this new information. So when he'd been shaving him, had he ... ? Well, Jack supposed it didn't matter if he had. A kindness is a kindness, and he still hoped that they'd got to Sluddard before he'd had a chance to carry out his commission on Rockwell, even if he was a finger twirler.
With one exception, this was turning out to be the worst voyage of Jack's life. Two days in, and at least Emma was mostly quiet, only moaning occasionally. When the bell went for dinner, and Jack asked her whether she wanted food, she didn't reply. Since she had eaten some bread the day before, and had a leather bottle of water with her in the bunk, Jack decided to leave her alone.
As he was drifting to sleep at the beginning of their third night on board, she suddenly said something. It sounded like: "but she's going to burn the bread."
"What?" said Jack.
Emma moaned. "Samuel?" she said. "Is that you?"
"Emma, are you awake?" Jack sat up in bed.
No answer. Sighing, he started strapping on his legs. "Emma?" Nothing. He fumbled with the laces, and was eventually able to haul himself upright. Thank God the bunks were low and didn't have a ladder.
She was pale and sweating heavily. Her eyes were wide open. Her forehead was hot to the touch. "Emma?" He'd never heard of seasickness causing a fever ... Then he noticed her left arm. Blood and pus had soaked through the bandage he'd applied, and through her shift too. When Jack had been living with Doctor Daniet he had seen this all too often: a wound gone bad, a fever, clammy skin, fast heartbeat ... blood poisoning.
"Damn," he muttered. Then: "I'll find the surgeon."
Emma looked at him, her brown eyes wide and tearful. "The kitchen table," she whispered. "He's ... I think we need to go back."
Then again, maybe it would be unwise to call anyone else in. He rolled up her sleeve, then started cutting his own sheets for rags and bandages. Somewhere in his pack he had ... yes, here: a little flask of vinegar. The wound wasn't as bad as it could have been. He carefully cleaned away the pus, and started wiping it with vinegar. She tried to jerk her arm away, but Jack managed to hold it down to try again. This time she hit outwards, almost sending Jack flying to the floor.
"Stay still," he said through gritted teeth. "You have to stay still."
The ship lurched to the left, and this time Jack did topple over, knocking the breath out of him. What's the point, he thought, pulling himself up so he was leaning against the wall, his legs in front of him. He'd only seen a patient with blood poisoning recover once, and Doctor Daniet had had to cut off his arm. Emma might as well be dead already. He tried to cheer himself up by remembering Emma's money (surely his by right if she died), and the fact that she was E.M. Jones, who deserved to die more than twenty deaths, but all he could think about was the fact that horrendous as the last few days had been, he hadn't been lonely any more. Though he resisted the idea, he was beginning to feel he liked her.
He looked up at her, pale and quiet now, and decided he had to do something. He would fetch the ship's surgeon, and if she started rambling about the murder again, he would have to explain it away as something that happened when she was a slave.
The barber surgeon dumped Emma in a chair, where she sprawled groggily, as he examined her wound. His cabin was scarcely bigger than their one. Jack sat on a stool just outside, watching.
"She doesn't seem well," said the surgeon, poking her arm. "It almost certainly is the wound, though of course there's no way of telling for sure."
Jack glowered. "What can we do about it?" he said.
"I suppose I could cut off her arm," said the barber surgeon.
"Will that help?"
"It might do," said the surgeon. "And she'll almost certainly die if I don't. Who is she?"
"My sister," said Jack. It was the story they'd agreed before boarding the ship, but as Jack said it, he realised it felt almost true.
As the barber surgeon turned round to his box of knives and saws, Emma groaned.
"Emma?" said Jack.
"Where am I?" She blinked and looked around. "What's going on?"
When the surgeon turned round with his knife she yelped, and clutched her arm protectively. "What are you doing?" she said, and tried to stand up, before collapsing back onto the chair. "Jack, are you trying to make this man cut off my arm?"
"It's alright," said Jack. "I–"
"My God," she said. "You are! You ... maniac."
"Emma," said Jack. "Please listen. I wouldn't if I didn't have to. Why would I want to if it wasn't for your own health?
"For the same reason you keep trying to kill me, I suppose," she said. "Somewhere in your diseased mind, you think ... I don't know. An eye for an eye, an ... arm for a leg."
Jack thought about this for a moment. "That's not a bad point," he said. "But in fact–"
He broke off as Emma started coughing. "Damn," she said. "I thought I'd escaped influenza when I escaped Cowie Street."
"Influenza?" said Jack quietly.
"Yes," said Emma, still glaring at him. "It was doing the rounds. And as far as I know, there is no cure for influenza that involves cutting anything off."
"I thought you had blood poisoning!" said Jack. "And the surgeon–"
"I did say there's no way of telling for sure," interrupted the surgeon, while putting his knives away. "Blood poisoning and 'flu' have very similar symptoms, so odds are when there's a wound gone bad it's the former. Talking of which, I'd better put a new dressing on your arm – what happened, by the way? – and then you can go and lie down."
Three days later, Emma's wound was healing nicely, and she had recovered sufficiently from influenza that she could stand out on the deck with Jack, looking out as the sun set over New York Harbour.
"Dear God," said Jack. "It's bigger than Halifax. Bigger than ten Halifaxes."
Emma refrained from smiling. One more night on the ship, and they would be on dry land again, and start finding out what was going on, and the day would be in sight when she could start her new life.
At least Emma no longer struggled to walk slowly enough to for Jack to keep up. The lodgings they eventually found were no more than half a mile away from the docks, but procuring them took most of a day, as she couldn't walk for more than a few minutes without taking a rest. Everyone else seemed to walk so fast they were almost running: enormous crowds of them, going this way and that, with solemn angry looks on their faces that suggested they thought they were doing the only important thing in the world.
But by mid-afternoon Emma and Jack had two adjoining rooms in a clean boarding house a few streets away from where Captain Rockwell had told Jack he lived. Jack sat on Emma's bed while she unpacked.
"I told the landlady I was your sister," she said. "But a widow, so I'm still Mrs Jones. Be careful, she's quite inquisitive. Can you give me the gold and things from your bag? I need to sell something to pay our deposit."
Jack opened the pocket where he'd secreted it. It must have fallen out, so he searched the main part of the bag. Meanwhile, Emma was looking in hers. "Jack," she said, "have you moved my things? I can't find them."
Jack's heart began to sink. He didn't reply, but emptied everything out of his bag, and started searching franticly among the pile of clothes.
"Jack, answer me." Emma's voice was higher than usual. She emptied her bag out too, though more neatly, sorting things into piles. The gold and jewellery were gone. "Jack, is this a trick you're playing on me, because if so–"
"I don't understand," said Jack. "We were with our bags all the time. You barely left the cabin, and when you did, I was there, except ... oh."
"Except when you dragged me from my sick bed and tried to persuade that man to cut off my arms." She stood up, but her head was too light and her legs too shaky, so she slumped back down again. "Oh God," she said.
"It might not have been then," said Jack. "It might have been while you were asleep, and anyway it was only one of your arms and it was for your own good."
"That's not the point," shouted Emma, then checked herself, and spat the words under her breath. "That's not the point. You should have guarded it better. The door had a lock, didn't it? Why didn't you use it?"
"I didn't think," said Jack. "I didn't–"
"That's it," said Emma. "I give up. I can't do it anymore. I can't keep starting over. Oh God." She sat on the bed beside him, her face in her hands.
"It's only things," said Jack. "You can always get more. It might take time, but you can do it. You just have to–"
"No," said Emma. "It's not 'only things', and I don't 'just' have to do anything. It's hours and days I've spent crushed under the weight of stinking, pox-ridden sailors, pretending I was having fun. It's the bruises I wore when they remembered all the wrongs women had done them, and decided to take them out on me. It's the times other women spat at me in the street, and–
"It's only money," persisted Jack. "There are other ways of earning money."
"No," said Emma. "It isn't only money. It's my hope, it's my future."
"What about my future?" said Jack. "Every single day, poor men become rich, but show me one case in the history of the world of a man who's lost his legs and got them back again."
"Oh shut up," said Emma. "Can't you even for one moment think about something other than your stupid legs? I only wish that that – whatever it was – had fallen on your head instead." She started coughing.
"So do I," said Jack, and looked morosely out of the window. He hated New York already. Everything was brown and grey here. In Sherbrooke the milkweed would just be coming into bloom, and the meadows would smell of sweetgrass. "I'm sorry," he said, and tentatively touched Emma's back. She pushed his hand away.
"Well anyway," she said, "we should see what we do have." She opened the pouch she wore at her waist and emptied out three rings and a silver hedgehog onto the bed. "What about the things in your pockets?" she said.
Jack brightened a little. He'd forgotten about those, and took out a dented locket, a broken gold chain and an old sovereign.
Emma sighed and rubbed her temples. "I suppose we'd better find somewhere cheaper to live," she said.
Emma found it hard to sleep that night. The bed she shared with Jack was full of fleas, and she could hear cockroaches clicking and rustling over the floor. Her lungs made it feel as though she were drowning in phlegm. She finally dropped off a little before dawn, but it felt as though she had only slept for a few moments before Jack was shaking her awake.
"We need to go and see Captain Rockwell," he said.
Emma groaned. "I'm sick," she said.
"He could be in danger," Jack continued. "We need to warn him."
"Can't it wait?" said Emma.
"Think how you'll feel if he's killed this morning."
Emma propped herself up in bed. She could ask Jack to go on his own, of course, but she was hungry for more information, and it wasn't as though she wasn't used to working through illness. Don't you ever let them see you're sick, her mother had taught her. No mind how bad it feels, what they'll do to you when they find out, that'll be worse.
The Rockwell house was large and imposing, clad in fieldstone with a wide veranda at the front, but the yellow paint on the door and shutters was chipped and fading.
Jack hung back. "Come on then," said Emma. "You're the one he invited to visit."
"It's very grand," said Jack. Then: "what if he wants me to shave him again?"
"Then you shave him," said Emma, coughing. "Or you don't shave him. It doesn't matter." She started for the door. Sighing, Jack followed.
The door was opened by a negro maid. "Excuse me," said Emma. "We're looking for Captain Rockwell. Would you be so kind as to tell me whether he's at home?"
The maid's eyes widened. "I'm sorry, ma'am," she said. "I mean, I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but the master died last month. The mistress is at home, if you would like to speak to her."
Jack opened his mouth to decline, but Emma spoke first. "Yes," she said. "Thank you."
"Please come in." She ushered them into a small reception room with three armchairs, a writing desk and four oversized pot plants, leaving as they sat down.
"Oh God," said Jack. "Do you think he was–"
"Shh!" said Emma, hearing footsteps.
Mrs Rockwell was an old woman, with a thin sour face which suited her widow's weeds all too well. She looked from Emma to Jack with barely disguised disgust, standing in the middle of the room while the maid hovered nervously at the door.
"Good afternoon, ma'am," said Emma. "We had hoped to call upon your husband, and are so sorry to hear of your tragic loss."
Mrs Rockwell glared. "Who are you?" she said.
"My brother here once sailed with Captain Rockwell," said Emma, "who had the opportunity to do him many kindnesses."
"Kindnesses, is it?" said Mrs Rockwell, the glare narrowing further, so it was almost a squint.
There was an awkward silence, which Emma broke with a cough. Not the polite kind, but the painful, racking kind it's hard to stop.
"I don't have anything for you," said Mrs Rockwell.
"Please," said Jack, "what did he ... I mean how did Captain Rockwell ..."
"Pass away," finished Emma. "If you don't mind us asking."
"He fell off a pier on the way back from the tavern," said Mrs Rockwell. "The coroner said he was blind drunk."
"Are you sure it was an accident?" said Jack.
"What are you suggesting?" Mrs Rockwell's eyes glinted in anger.
"I'm sorry if we caused any offence," said Emma.
"And I'm sorry that I must ask you to leave," said Mrs Rockwell. "It is time for me to feed the parrot."
"One more thing–" began Emma.
"Good day to you," said Mrs Rockwell. "Mary, see them out."
Emma and Jack sat on a bench in the small park opposite the Rockwell house. Emma was still coughing.
"Poor Captain Rockwell," said Jack.
"And poor us," said Emma, once she could. "Whoever killed him wants us dead too, remember. Oh, I wish she'd been more accommodating. We could have asked to look through his papers or something."
Jack's eyes glinted. "You didn't notice then?" he said.
Jack took a sealed envelope from his pocket. "I swiped it while you ladies were talking," he said.
"Let me see ..." Emma took the envelope. "To Mr Augustus Honeyman ... Does that name ring any bells?"
"It certainly does," said Jack. "He was the owner of the Opportunity. Do you want to open it or shall I?"
Emma handed it back.
Dear Mr Honeyman
This is the final warning that I shall give you. Make the payment in gold by Wednesday next or the world shall know Our Little Secret.
Yr obedient servant etc. etc.
"Blackmail!" said Jack. "So Captain Rockwell was a sodomite. And it looks as though Honeyman is too ..."
"I'm not sure," said Emma.
"What else could 'our little secret' mean?"
"Anything. And if that's what it's about, why was my name in Sluddard's book? Why did he try to kill me?"
"Excuse me?" Jack and Emma turned. Behind them stood the Rockwells' maid, holding a leash with a pucker-faced little dog at the end. "Sorry to disturb you," she continued, "but I ... I overheard what the mistress said to you, that the master was drunk, I mean, and I wanted ... oh dear, this is coming out wrong, but I don't think he can have been, you see. He doesn't ... didn't drink at all, you see."
"What's your name?" asked Emma
"Mary, ma'am," said Mary.
"What do you think happened to him, Mary?"
But Mary didn't answer. She looked nervously behind her and said: "Sorry, ma'am, I've got to go." And she hurried off.
"It was her!" said Jack. "Mrs Rockwell, I mean. She must have found out about her husband and Mr Honeyman."
"Perhaps," said Emma. "In which case, we should forget about Rockwell, and work out who sent Sluddard after me, and this other fellow after you. Or we should go our separate ways and change our names and hope that whoever they are they don't care enough to trace us."
But go where? And do what? The worst of it was that there were so many things to think about that she kept forgetting that the comfort and safety of her hard won wealth had gone, and each time she remembered it was like being struck, and each time it wore her down a little more.
As soon as they got to their dingy little room, Emma crawled back into bed. By mid afternoon, Jack's throat felt as though he'd been swallowing knives, and by dinnertime, he was in bed too.
"We should find out more about Honeyman," said Emma the next morning.
Jack groaned. "I'm going to be sick," he said.
"You said he was the owner of the Opportunity. What else do you know about him?"
"Not much," said Jack. "He was on my list of people to kill, but George Washington was higher on it, and so was George III for that matter, so I figured I'd never get that far."
"Well," said Emma, coughing. "We've got his address. Shall we go and see him?"
"You can if you want," said Jack. "I'm not getting out of bed."
Emma's anxiety and curiosity fought with her aching body and crushing fatigue. The latter won. And as the hours turned into days, her impetus to move declined even further. After all, there wouldn't be another ship from Halifax to New York for another fortnight, so the man hunting Jack wouldn't be able to follow them. And anyway, they had no reason to suspect he knew that's where they were. As for whoever sent Sluddard, he probably didn't even know of the latter's death yet, let alone where Emma was. The mystery still had to be solved, but it could wait a week, a fortnight, perhaps more.
It was ten days, as it happened. Their landlady, whom they had paid to bring them food and do their laundry, knocked on their door. Emma – now more or less well, apart from the cough, went barefoot to open it.
"Someone was looking for you," she said. "Said they'd been asking all over, and someone told them to come here."
Emma's eyes widened. As far as she was aware, no-one knew they were in New York. This was not good news.
"It's all right," said the landlady. "I didn't know what you wanted, so I told them I didn't know you, but I took his details in case you want to see him." She handed over a piece of paper.
Emma sighed with relief. So there were advantages to lodging somewhere less than entirely reputable. "Thank you," she said.
"What does it say," said Jack, still in bed, once she'd shut the door.
"Paul Rogers," said Emma. "That's your brother's name, isn't it?" She opened the door and shouted out to the landlady. "Excuse me, what did he look like?"
"He was an ugly brute," said the landlady, coming back. "Looks like he had smallpox bad once upon a time. Not much taller than you though. About the gentleman's height." She nodded in Jack's direction.
"Thank you," said Emma.
"That's impossible," said Jack, once the landlady had left again. "There were no ships. Unless there are two of them ..."
Emma shook her head. "All right," she said. "I need to find out what's going on. You'd better lie low here. I'll check out Honeyman's place, and also the address our scar-faced friend gave the landlady."
"No," said Jack. "I'm coming too. There's safety in numbers, and anyway, it's unlikely he'd do anything in the middle of the street in broad daylight. Sluddard came to your house, remember, and what if this other fellow didn't believe the landlady?"
"All right then," said Emma. "Hurry up."
Honeyman's house was much grander than Rockwell's: three storeys high, and made from smooth stone. It was on a wide avenue lined with stately birches. One of these had a bench beneath it, which Emma and Jack occupied, watching the front door.
"What are we looking for?" said Jack.
"I don't know," said Emma. "I want to see him though, so at least we'll be able to recognise him if he–"
If he what? Was he a suspect, or another possible victim? But Emma's meditations were cut short as Jack grabbed her arm. "Ow!" she said. The bullet wound was well on its way to healing now, but it still hurt when– Oh. Someone was approaching the front door of Honeyman's house, and unlocking it. Someone whom Emma recognised. But it can't be, she thought. But he turned his head from left to right, and it was.
"Honeyman," said Jack.
"No it isn't," said Emma. "That's not Honeyman, that's a man called Jacob Bearbank. Barrett introduced me to him. He's the one who sold me the Antelope."
"Then why does he have a key to Honeyman's house?" said Jack. "Do you think they're lovers? Shaving lovers, I mean."
"I don't know," said Emma. "Let me think a minute. I–"
But at that moment another figure appeared near Honeyman's door, and loitered near the iron railings outside it, and he had a blue coat and brown breeches.
"The scar-faced assassin," said Jack.
"Don't look in his direction," said Emma, jerking Jack's head round so it faced towards her and away from the man. She thought quickly. There was no point in trying to run, and nowhere to hide. They just had to trust that he wouldn't pass this way. Emma peeked out from behind Jack's head. He was walking towards them. She checked she still had her pistols. She'd made sure they were loaded before she left. "He's coming this way," she said. "Let's go."
"There's no point," said Jack, but nonetheless he stood up, and they started walking in the opposite direction.
Emma wondered whether it would be better to try to carry him, but that would have been hopeless – even more hopeless. He managed to break into a sort of run.
Emma heard the footsteps behind them. She looked around her. What for? Another weapon. A place to hide, to shelter. One of the houses had a lowered area in front of it leading to the basement and coal cellar. The railings had an open gate. "Down there," she said to Jack.
But the man was closing in on them. It was Jack he wanted, not her, so she pushed him down. Then she strode forward to confront their pursuer. Before she could speak, she felt something pressing against her belly. A gun.
"What do you want?" she said, but the man spoke at the same time, and said the same thing.
Emma tried again. "Why are you following me?" she said.
"What do you want with my brother?" replied the man.
"He's not your brother," said Emma, and then felt the pistol dig deeper into her guts. Should she draw her own, and at least try to shoot before it was definitely too late?
The man was looking over her shoulder towards the coal cellar. "Jack?" he said.
Behind her, Emma heard Jack ... it sounded as though he was laughing? Now was the time to shoot. Whatever was happening, the man was distracted, and–
"Emma!" said Jack. She didn't turn. "Stop! Don't shoot. I am her brother. Primrose, what on earth ..."
"Jack?" Primrose pushed Emma aside, and ran to her brother, kneeling down. "Jack, I've been so worried about you. Who is she? What's happening? Why did she hurt you? And shouldn't we get out of here? Honeyman's dangerous."
"How did you know–" But Emma stopped. Primrose was right. Together they hauled Jack out and made for their lodgings.
When they got back, Jack took off his outer garments – filthy from the coal cellar – and his legs.
Primrose's eyes filled with tears. "Oh Jack," she said. "Your legs!"
Jack looked at her. "What happened to your face?" he said.
"My– oh that," she said. "I got smallpox at the same time as mother. Oh. Did you know she'd ..."
"Yes," said Jack. "I heard."
"I don't mind a bit about my face," said Primrose. "In fact I quite like it. Stopped the boys from chasing me."
Emma smiled. "Sensible girl," she said. "I wish I knew at your age what nonsense all that is."
"Well," said Jack. "Maybe I like not having legs. It stops ... in fact no, it doesn't have any advantages at all. But this is all beside the point. How on earth did you get here? You were in Halifax a couple of weeks ago, and I know for a fact there hasn't been a ship since ours. And why are you following me? And pretending to be Paul?
"There's been an amazing new invention," said Primrose. "It's called a horse. And I'm following you because we all miss you and want to bring you home, of course, and I'm calling myself Paul because it's safer to travel as a man. But what on earth are you mixed up in? I've been following you and trying to figure it out. I know you went to Widow Rockwell's place, and I saw what happened between her and Honeyman, so I know what he did, but–"
"Wait," said Emma. "What did he do? And what happened between him and Mrs Rockwell?"
"You'd better start from the beginning," said Jack.
"It took me a couple of days to find any trace of you," said Primrose, as the two ladies settled down to sit on the floor. "But someone at the docks said you'd asked for directions to what turned out to be the Rockwell house. I already knew from Halifax that something dangerous was going on–"
"How did you know that?" said Emma.
"At first I thought the magistrates wanted you both because you'd committed a crime," said Primrose. "I didn't realise that you'd killed a criminal instead. They've got a reward for you, but it's only five pounds. Apparently they don't care very much about murderers there."
The heavy fear lifted, and stupidly, Emma felt for a moment as though all her troubles were over.
Primrose continued. "Anyway, I knew that whoever you were visiting might be dangerous, so I didn't knock on the door, but decided to do some spying instead, and I hit lucky. Honeyman was there, and threatening Mrs Rockwell that he'd have her killed just like her husband was killed if she dared to go to the magistrates, or the insurance company, or anything. And she was crying and begging him not to hurt her, and she said she'd never tell, because she'd be ruined if the insurance company heard–"
"Insurance company?" began Jack.
"Shh ..." said Emma. "I think I'm beginning to understand, but go on."
"And anyway, then she told him about you – both of you – coming round and asking questions, and he promised he'd deal with that. And then she came over and shut the window I was listening under, so I didn't hear any more. What's it about, Jack?"
"We've been conned," said Emma. "All of us. You, me, Barrett ... no, not Barrett, he must have been in on it, but the other sailors ... oh God. How awful."
"What?" said Jack.
"It was insurance fraud," said Emma. "The Antelope disaster, I mean. It must have been."
Jack frowned. "But Barrett said the Antelope wasn't insured," he said.
Emma's face twisted up, she was trying not to cry. "It wasn't," she said. "Barrett told me I didn't need to. And if Rockwell hadn't been ill, I wouldn't have needed to. They must have planned it between the three of them, Honeyman calling himself Bearbank so I wouldn't be able to connect the man who arranged the sale of the Antelope to me with the man who owned the Opportunity."
"But what did they plan?" said Jack.
"That Barrett would sail the Antelope up to the Opportunity, and after a few warning shots on each side, Rockwell would give command for his crew to hand over the cargo. That way, Honeyman would be a winner twice over. He could claim the insurance money, and a share in the 'stolen' cargo. And Barrett and Rockwell would get theirs as well: no guns, no tears, no risk, no ships sunk, and no losers, except for the insurance company."
"But Rockwell was the only one who knew," said Jack.
"Exactly," replied Emma. "So when he got sick, it all went terribly wrong. The Lieutenant knew nothing of the plans, so naturally, when he found himself being pursued by a privateer as scummy and frail as the Antelope, he did the obvious thing and fired to destroy it. Poor Rockwell must have felt awful when he woke up from his delirium and found out what happened. That must be why he spent so much money on you, Jack. A guilty conscience."
"Poor Rockwell my arse," said Jack, going pale then red. "But never mind about him, and never mind about Barrett either. They're already dead, but I won't sleep until Honeyman has joined them. Let's go. Let's go now." And he began strapping on his right leg
"Kill him?" said Primrose, her eyes widening in horror. "I know there was that other man, but that was self-defence. We should let the law take care of him."
"Jack," said Emma. "I understand, really I do. But if we reported him to the insurers, then we wouldn't risk getting hanged ourselves, and maybe he'd be hanged. I don't know how the law works, but surely ... all those people who died ..."
"I owe it to them," said Jack. "Pass me my other leg."
"No," said Emma, picking it up and putting it in the far corner of the room. "Not until you promise to be sensible.
"That's not fair," said Jack, then launched himself at her. He took her by surprise and she fell to the floor, him on top, so she kneed him in the groin, and wrestled him until he was under her ...
"Stop it!" said Primrose. "Stop it, both of you."
... Jack had his hands round Emma's neck, but he brought it too close, and Emma bit his cheek. He let go, and grabbed her left arm instead, where he knew it was wounded. She screamed, Jack loosened his grip, and they separated, both sitting on the floor and panting. They looked at one another.
"That's been coming a long while," said Emma. She started laughing, and then Jack started too.
"You know," said Jack, "I always wondered which of us would win if we did that. I'm glad it's me."
"Oh yes?" said Emma. "Best of three?"
"No!" said Primrose. "Please, stop it. And stop talking about killing people, Jack. You're frightening me."
Jack stopped laughing and looked serious for a moment. "All right," he said. "We'll turn him in."
"Can I help you?" The bespectacled insurance clerk looked Jack, Emma and Primrose up and down. The office of Bushy, Bagot and Green had marble floors, and everything was spotlessly clean. There were also big mirrors on the walls, and when Emma caught a glimpse of their reflection, she remembered how long it had been since she'd had a proper wash or changed her clothes. She'd lost weight too.
"We have some evidence concerning an insurance fraud against your company," said Emma. "We would like to speak to someone in private."
"Oh yes?" the clerk looked dubious, and disinclined to let them further than the front lobby.
Emma lowered her voice. "One of your clients? A Mr Augustus Honeyman?"
The clerk raised his eyebrows, but nodded, and leant in close to them. "I have had my suspicions for a while," he whispered. "But it may not be safe to talk here. My colleagues ..." He looked around anxiously. "Can you come to the Two Tuns Tavern at sundown tonight? There's a private room at the back."
"He's not going to show," said Jack. It was already several hours past sundown. "And you've already had more than enough ale, Primrose. You're too young to–"
"I'm nineteen!" said Primrose.
Nineteen. She'd been thirteen when he'd last seen her, with ribbons in her hair and knee-length skirts. Now she was drinking like a sailor, and dressing like one too, and her once pretty face was neither like a man's nor a woman's.
"Someone's coming," said Emma, and all three of them instinctively put their hands to their pistols.
The insurance clerk came in, smiling. And closely followed by Honeyman, and four other men, all tall and strong, all carrying pistols.
"We need to talk," said Honeyman. "You're surrounded, and the innkeeper's a friend of mine, so don't try anything. You can all put your weapons on the table, in fact." He nodded to the window, where Jack dimly saw a face. His grip tightened, but Emma and Primrose had already laid down their pistols.
"Jack ..." warned Emma. He placed his down too. So this was Honeyman, whose greed had ruined his life, who was ten times worse than the E.M. Jones of his imagination.
"I know you," said Honeyman to Emma. "You're the half nigger girl Barrett conned into taking the Antelope. So Barrett did tell you about the plan. I knew he had. What happened to Sluddard, girl? And who are the others?" He looked from Primrose to Jack and back to Primrose again.
"I'm Jack Rogers," said Jack. "The last of Barrett's Privateers." He snatched up his pistol and fired, then everything began to happen at once. There were more gunshots. Jack felt himself being pulled under the table, and saw Emma and Primrose were there too. He didn't know what was happening. He thought he was back on the Antelope again, and everything was falling in on him. Someone was screaming. Someone was crying. He blacked out.
"Jack, Jack!" Someone was shaking him. Primrose. Where was he? What had happened? He recognised the bottom of Emma's skirt. So he was under the table, and all three of them were alive.
Primrose helped him up to sit on the bench.
Honeyman lay dead on the floor, and the insurance clerk was being held by a burly man he didn't recognise. He didn't seem hurt, but he wasn't struggling.
There was an older man too, and several others, all young and strong. But in the middle stood Mrs Rockwell holding a pistol in her shaking hand. The older man stood forward.
"Allow me to introduce myself," he said. "I am Henry Bushy, of the Bushy, Bagot and Green Insurance Company, and you, sirs, and ma'am–" here he took his hat off to Emma. "Have saved me a fortune of several thousand pounds." He turned to Mrs Rockwell. "You too, ma'am."
"What happened?" said Emma. "How did you know ..."
"Mrs Rockwell came and told me everything," he said.
"I'm sorry," said Mrs Rockwell. "I shouldn't have ... I mean I should have helped you when I came, but I was so frightened. But when he–" she gestured to Honeyman. "When he came to see me today, I couldn't go on. Even if it meant losing everything, it was better than living with the knowledge that you had died because of my negligence. My husband ... well, I suppose you know what he did, and what happened. It destroyed him." She began to cry. "Still," She continued. "I've avenged him now." She stared at Honeyman's body, and then at her pistol. Her hands were shaking.
"I'd had my suspicions about Emmanuel here for some time." Mr Bushy glared round at the clerk. "So when he asked to leave at midday today, I had him followed to Honeyman's house, discovered what he was plotting and–"
"I wanted to come too," cut in Mrs Rockwell. "I don't think I planned to kill him, but I needed to be there, and if anyone was going to kill him, I thought it should be me. Will they hang me, do you think?" She didn't seem frightened at the prospect.
"I'll see to it they don't," said Mr Bushy. "We can all testify that it was self defence, can't we?" He looked round the room.
"What about the others?" said Emma. "Mr Honeyman and Mr ..." She looked at the clerk."
"Chatham," said Mr Bushy.
"Mr Honeyman and Mr Chatham didn't come here alone," she continued. "There were at least three others."
"Don't worry about them," said Mr Bushy. "We didn't come alone either. Mr Bagot himself knocked one of them out, I believe." He chuckled. "Mr Green said he would fetch the officers."
"The officers," said Emma faintly.
"We should get you ladies out of here," said Mr Bushy. "Do you want to talk about your reward tonight, or do you need a night's sleep first?"
They sat up together in Jack's suite, which was the largest, drinking whisky.
Primrose was chatting happily about life back in Sherbrooke. "Jane's pregnant again," she said. "And I can't wait for you to meet your nephews and nieces. They called the second boy Jack, you know – that was when we thought you were dead. He's nothing like you though. He's kind to his sisters."
Jack laughed. He was going home. And with the money Mr Bushy had promised him, he knew he had no need to fear being a burden. He'd set himself up in a trade, though he hadn't decided which one.
Primrose turned to Emma. "So are you and Jack getting married then? If so, can I be your bridesmaid? I do wear dresses sometimes, I promise."
Emma turned to Jack and was relieved to see her own horror shadowed in his face. Both of them burst out laughing.
Emma was the first to calm down enough to speak. "I've already tried marriage," she said. "And it didn't agree with me one bit. But I have to say, I think marriage to Jack would surpass even my marriage to Mr Jones in terms of awfulness."
"I agree," said Jack. "We'd probably kill one another."
"Thank God," said Emma. "I thought that when she said that, maybe I'd misunderstood, maybe–"
"Me too," said Jack. "But let's not even think about it, right?"
"I ... I haven't really thought about where I'll go," said Emma. "As I said, I want to open a shop, but–"
"The town gets bigger every week," continued Primrose, "but we don't have a shop yet. Everyone is crying out for one."
"We could open one up together," said Jack, then blushed. "If you want to, I mean. Perhaps you want to make a new start, well away from me."
"I thought perhaps that's what you wanted," said Emma.
"Aren't you sick of me?" said Jack
"Of course I'm sick of you," said Emma. "But I'd miss you like hell if you weren't here."
"Ah," said Primrose. "I understand. That's why you don't want to get married. You're just like a brother and sister."
"Good," said Emma. "Now that's sorted, shall we go to bed?"
"One thing first," said Primrose, raising her glass. "A toast. To Bushy, Bagot and Green. And to Rockwell and Mrs Rockwell, and to us."
Emma and Jack raised their glasses. "To all of us."
"And one more," said Jack. "To Honeyman, and to Chatham, and to Sluddard. And maybe to Rockwell and E.M. Jones too, and certainly to Barrett. God damn them all."