Jarrah recoils, grabbing his nose painfully.
“Why, you little-” begins an officer, but Jarrah sticks his arm out and holds him back.
“No,” says Jarrah quickly, “we can’t hurt him. He’s wanted unharmed. His Massah will deal with him when he’s back in chains.”
The officers sneer at Jarrah. “Who’s side are you on, mate? Give the filth what’s coming to him!” The first officer grabs Isaac’s arms and holds him back, while the other proceeds to kick him in the gut in anger.
“Slaves or not, you swine oughtn’t be allowed on American land, making us herd you like lazy sheep running from the flock. Dumber than stock, I tell you, at least the animals stay in their fences.”
I wince when Isaac does, every painful blow flooding me with guilt. They wouldn’t have found him if I didn’t go back for Jarrah, who’s now standing worriedly to the side.
Stop them! Make them listen to you! I think as I glare at Jarrah.
“F**ck you, and f**ck every last one of you white-faced cows,” growls Isaac, interrupted by a firm punch to the neck that silences him.
“Shut up or be shut down, I always say. You could learn a few things, lad. Aaron, bind him and let’s take them in.”
The other officer grabs Isaac’s wrists firmly, and wraps a thick rope around them. Isaac’s face is borderline savage, and he stares at me in disgust.
“How could you just let them take-” he begins, and I shake my head.
“It doesn’t matter. Just do what he says and we’ll be fine, ” I whisper, hoping he’ll understand what I’m trying to tell him.
Jarrah turns to the officers. “Your services are much appreciated, lads. We’ll be on our way now.”
“Not so fast.” An officer grabs Isaac firmly. “You know, I could make a year’s wages just selling this slave.”
Jarrah frowns. “Aye, but he’s already owned by the Whitley family. I suggest you take up your income issues with him then.”
The officer grunts. “You still haven’t proved Mr. Whitley sent you.”
“Proof?” frowns Jarrah.
“Aye. A warrant. Papers signed by him, or even a judge. Something. If you can’t give me that, ’mfraid we’ll have to take them from here.”
“Take the-you can’t take them. I caught them and I have the right to give them up to authorities when I please.”
“Well, if you don’t give them to us now, we can charge you for deliberately keeping fugitive slaves from the authorities up to a 1000 dollar fine. Besides, your job is to catch the slaves, and you’ve caught them. Is there a problem?”
Jarrah looks at me worriedly. “You’ll be hearing from the Whitleys. They won’t be pleased they have to wait so long to get their slaves back. Let me take them now and let’s avoid this mess.”
“I’m sure they’ve got hundreds of other slaves to keep the plantation running,” sneers the officer, “we’ll be on our way now.”
I try and stall them, relishing in the last few seconds of my freedom. My mouth opens to speak, to protest, anything to keep my pride intact. Instead I stand there lifeless, shrugging my shoulders at a loss for words as tears form around my eyes. I can’t even fight them back. My feet carry themselves, following the movements of the officers making their way back onto the road.
“Wait!” Jarrah calls desperately, and the officers turn.
“What is it now?” they growl.
“You...you don’t know who I am.”
“Of course we don’t. Why would we?” an officer sighs, “stop wasting our time, boy.”
“But the others did. They arrested me. I’m a wanted man in this state.” Jarrah pauses to collect his thoughts.
“What are you doing? Shut up or they’ll take you too!” I hiss.
“I don’t know what game you’re up to or who you are, boy, but you’d better leave us alone. You don’t want trouble and we don’t care who you say you are.”
Jarrah clears his throat and takes another step towards us.
“My name is Jarrah Whitley, heir to the estate of Master John Whitley. Still don’t care?”
I mentally slap him.
“Listen lad, do yourself a favour and go back where you came from. Your fancy titles mean nothing here.”
He continues, “I am no slave catcher, nor will I ever be one. I lied to you. I escaped the Whitley plantation with the two slaves before you a few weeks ago, and I’m wanted for assault, holding fugitives, and am requested upon sight for immediate arrest and return to Kentucky.”
[A/N: Ohohohoh he’s back. :D]
* * *
The man grabbing my wrists lets go and takes a step towards Jarrah, towering above him.
My palms are sweaty and I nervously watch Jarrah stand his ground.
“You freed them, did you?” the officer asks.
“And you know the punishment for such a thing, Jarrah Whitley?" He emphasises his name with distaste.
“Aaron, would ya get a load of this? It’s Jarrah Whitley." the officer laughs, “Why, he’s nothing but a rotten liar who’d like a taste of prison. See, lad, what you don’t know, is that our folks back in Merrick already caught a “Jarrah Whitley” hiding in a barn. Told us so early this morning. You do look an awful lot like him, and you’ve done your research, but the filth you’ve dressed yourself in-ha! Why bother memorizing the lines when you can’t act, isn’t that so? Nothing more than a farm boy trying to make some money off some slaves. Well, the slaves are free labour and you aren’t, I can see the problem in recruitment. Maybe you’d oughta paint yourself black and we can sell you as well! Serves you right for lying to the law.”
The officer Aaron lets out a gleeful, high-pitched laugh that sounds more like a pig when you’ve given it food than a human.
“Aye George, we must be leaving. You’ve had your fun. As for you, get yourself a real job, lad. And maybe a better story. You’re far too young to be a slave catcher, by the way, and we all suspected it.”
Jarrah’s brows are furrowed and he opens his mouth to protest, but is at a loss for words. He decides to play the innocent card. “Right then...but I was maybe wondering, since I did find the girl and all, if I could get a small share? Like a reward? My family’s starving, it was all I had going for me.”
The officer, George, stares at him for a moment. “Quite a bold lad, I see. You’ll get yourself into trouble, biting off more than you can chew the way you’ve been doing. All right then, I suppose ye’ve earned that much. Come with us lad, but no funny business with the slaves or you join them behind bars.”
Jarrah gives a small smile, and he joins us.
“So, Alice, how have you been?” Jarrah whispers kindly.
I roll my eyes and smack his arm.
“How the hell are you so calm?” I whisper nervously.
“Quit talking back there,” spits George. As we step back onto the main road, we see the two horses we were riding earlier that we tied to a tree.
“These are cop horses, eh Aaron?” asks George.
Aaron nods and asks,
“But where are their riders?”
“Strange...” muses Aaron.
“You wouldn’t have anything to do with this, would you boy?” asks George, his voice rising.
Jarrah shrugs innocently.
“Where did you find the girl, exactly?”
“A while back, actually. We’ve been walking along the road for days. I was trying to take her to Preston to sell her and-”
“Preston? Why not sell her in Merrick and get rid of her?” he growls, eyes squinted in suspicion.
“She fetches more in Preston,” Jarrah responds quickly.
“What did you say your name was, again?”
“Jarrah bloody Whitley.”
I look in confusion at Jar’s unmoving lips, turning to see several officers behind us on horseback. The chief sits with a nasty bandage around his head and a scowl, pointing angrily at Jarrah.
“The real one?” says Aaron in confusion.
“The one and only,” Jarrah adds with a dazzling smile.
“What other bloody runaway Whitleys do you know? Incompetent, the lot of you. Grab him, before he pulls another fast one on us.”
The officers, faces bloated and red from anger, grab Jarrah’s shoulders to hold him back.
“For the last goddamn time, you are under arrest.”
“Hey gents, I’m just doing my job. You do yours.”
“Would someone put a muzzle on him as well, for the love of God. I’m almost tempted to let him go just to get rid of the brat.”
“In that case-”
"Tempted. But we’ll see how cheeky you are in prison, won’t we?”
Jarrah falls silent and the officers handcuff him.
“One more thing. Search him well. He’s crafty.”
Aaron pats Jarrah down, pulling out the prized knife that’s gotten us out of so many incidents.
“Fine knife you have.”
“It’s my father’s. You can keep it. Just clean the blood off it, would you? I’ve been meaning to.”
Aaron rolls his eyes and pockets the knife.
The Chief smiles victoriously, all his bases covered. “Oh, and in case you get any more ideas about escaping, just remember this, would you?”
The Chief firmly grabs my wrist, pulls out a Colt, and places it against my head. The warm metal digs into my skin, mixing with my sweat, and I sneer.
“Don’t touch her,” Isaac says instantly.
“Shut it, n*****.”
I shake my head slightly, warning him to back off.
“I just want you to know, Jarrah Whitley-it’s loaded. You may think you’re clever with your words and your charm, but they won’t save her if my finger slips on such a bumpy road. You run-I shoot. Are we clear?”
Jarrah nods solemnly.
“Onward, men! We’ve got bounties to collect, don’t we?” he finishes cheerily, mounting his horse.
“You’re welcome,” Jarrah whispers in my ear.
“Yeah,” I roll my eyes, “you really saved us. How the hell are you supposed to get us out if you’re coming to jail with us, genius?”
He shrugs, and says, “I bought us some time, princess.”
“Don’t you get it? It doesn’t matter. No one’s coming for us.”
* * *