Forging Forever

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Chapter 13

August 19, 1780

New York City, New York

The summer air was unusually warm, at least it seemed that way to Annie. It had been nearly a month since her unusual journey to the past with Cameron. She still had not adjusted to the cumbersome layers of clothing that she was forced to wear during the day. How anyone could wear this many layers during the summer was beyond her. However, it was a small sacrifice to make for all of the progress she was making. She and Cameron had arrived in New York City a little over three weeks ago. Since then, with a little assistance from Cameron, she had been able to ingratiate herself with the prominent members of society. Mary and Amos Underhill had been incredibly gracious and helpful to her, their eyes glimmering with both pity and thinly veiled contempt when she told them her story about being cast out by her cruel, loyalist family. Her other back story, the one that was told to the rest of the world had been easily accepted and voraciously spread throughout the upper echelons of society.

All in all, her arrival had been a success. Today held special significance for her for two reasons. The first being that she could finally read the third letter in the series of correspondence she had found in her attic a month ago. The second, and far more thrilling activity as far as she was concerned, was tonight she was to attend her first formal dinner party. She had received a personal invitation two days ago from none other than Major John Andre. She had made his acquaintance merely two days after she had arrived in town. It had been laughably easy to learn everything she could about the notorious womanizer. She had found the coffee shop he frequented with ease. Annie had made it a point to conveniently appear there on the second day of her stay in the city. After that things had been far too easy. They had met for coffee together nearly every morning since then. One night he had taken her on a moonlight stroll along the harbor. It had been difficult for Annie to walk along the coastline with him, seeing the prison ships in the distance. Luckily, she had been able to hide her anger and disgust and pretend that she was having a good time. She had even had enough composure to allow him a brief, yet heated, goodnight kiss. Since that night he had been exceedingly busy with meetings of a military nature, therefore making his presence in her life sporadic at best. Annie had been contemplating ways to increase her presence in his life when, two days ago, he had showed up at the coffee shop at his normal time and extended her a personal invitation to a dinner party being hosted by Noah and Madison Carter, a well off and well known loyalist couple. Annie had graciously accepted and Major Andre had promised to pick her up promptly at seven. She had not seen him since.

Annie had a strong suspicion as to his “urgent military business.” He was, no doubt, beginning his scheme to capture West Point with the aid of Benedict Arnold. She felt a shiver of thrill shimmy up her spine. She knew of the plot, now all she had to do was find proof to back it up. Tonight would be the beginning of her search.

Anxious to get on with her day, Annie stood up from the small table at the coffee shop, gathered her skirts, and stepped out into the muggy August day. She put on her hat as she stepped outside, thankful for even the limited protection it provided against the sun. For the millionth time she wished she had thought to stuff sunscreen and sunglasses in her bag before they left the 21st century, then quickly dismissed the idea. The sunblock she could have explained away as a new and rare lotion. The sunglasses, on the other hand, would be virtually impossible to explain to an 18th century crowd. Still, the thought of attempting to describe the purpose of her Oakley’s to those around her brought an amused smile to her face.

“Why Miss Johnson, it is truly a pleasure seeing you,” a voice from behind her said. The masculine tone and clipped British accent left no doubt to the speaker’s identity.

Annie turned to face her new companion. “Why, Major Andre, the pleasure is all mine,” she replied, plastering a beatific smile on her face. “I must admit I have missed our coffee dates for the last few days. I feared that you had grown tired of me.”

“Impossible Miss Johnson. How could anyone grow tired of such a beautiful young woman’s company? I was just on my way in to have a cup of coffee myself. Would you do me the pleasure of joining me?”

Annie thought about his proposal for a second. It’s not that she would mind a second, or even third cup of coffee, even if it was not her usual dark, Colombian roast. Throughout her college years she had grown used to drinking whatever form of caffeine was near her. Still, she really did want to get back to her room and decipher the letter she was meant to read today. Oh, the letter can wait. Join him for coffee, an inner voice said. “I would love to join you for coffee,” she replied.

“Splendid,” Major Andre replied and extended his arm to her. Annie graciously accepted it and together they walked into the coffee house. After assisting her to a seat, Major Andre ordered two cups of coffee and some scones. “Now, Miss Johnson, how have you been fairing these past two days,” he inquired.

“I have been well. But I must admit that my mood has been much improved now that you have returned,” Annie replied, lowering her lashes slightly. “I trust that your business went well?”

Major Andre gave her a slow, mildly seductive smile. “Quite well. Although, I must say that focusing on business has been difficult these past few days.”

“Oh, and why is that,” Annie inquired innocently. She had a fairly good idea what his answer would be.

“Because of you, Miss Johnson,” he replied.

“Me? Why ever so?”

“Oh, Miss Johnson,” he replied while grabbing her hand and bringing it to his lips. He placed a chaste kiss along her knuckles. “Your innocence is utterly refreshing,” he chuckled, then continued. “Thoughts of you have invaded my mind every day.”

Annie blushed and gave a shy smile. “Major Andre,” she replied. She made no attempt at removing her hand from his, “I am not quite sure how to respond to your, umm, compliment.”

“A simple thank you will suffice,” he replied with a smile.

“Well, thank you, Major Andre,” she said. Their coffee and scones arrived. The rest of their visit was relatively quiet, with only a few words being exchanged between sips of coffee and bites of scones. Thirty minutes after they had entered, Annie and Major Andre left the coffee house.

“I am afraid that I cannot escort you home today Miss Johnson. I have some pressing business that I must attend to,” he declared apologetically.

Annie feigned disappointment, “That is too bad. I do so enjoy your company Major Andre.”

“I know. I enjoy yours as well. But we will have plenty of time to enjoy each other’s company later tonight,” he replied. His tone was faintly seductive. Annie felt herself go stiff, if only for a second. Fortunately Major Andre did not notice her reaction.

“Well, until tonight then,” Annie responded in a forced whisper.

“Until tonight, Miss Johnson,” he echoed her whisper. Then with a small bow he left.

Annie slowly made her way through the crowded streets of the city back towards the boardinghouse. She had known something like this was coming. Major Andre’s reputation with women was well known. He had enjoyed the company of countless women throughout his life. Annie well understood his appeal. He was a handsome man. He had classic, patrician looks and lovely, penetrating eyes. He was accomplished in many areas, including music and art. Even Annie found herself mildly attracted to him. Still, her mild attraction did not prepare her for the intimate actions that he no doubt had in mind. She could only hope that she would be able to put him off long enough for him to reveal his plot without her having to give herself to him.

“That was quite a performance, Miss Johnson.”

Annie jumped. This was the second time in as many hours that a man had approached her from behind. She turned and saw Cameron’s grim face. “Cameron,” she exclaimed, “you scared me. How long have you been following me?”

“Long enough to see your performance for Major Andre,” he grated out. “That was a performance, was it not? I must admit, your responses to his thinly veiled attempts at seduction were quite convincing.”

“Cameron,” she gasped, “we should not be discussing such things out in the open,” she paused, then continued in a whisper, “we can’t be sure of who is listening.”

Without a word, Cameron grabbed her hand and pulled her into a deserted alleyway. Panic began to well up inside her. Her heart began to race and adrenaline pumped through her veins. She looked around her, planning a route of escape in case things got out of hand. “Cameron, let go. You’re hurting me,” she pleaded. Cameron released her hand then turned and faced her.

“What has gotten into you today,” Annie asked. His behavior was completely out of character. Usually he was jovial, charming, and funny, at least around her. She had seen glimpses of his intensity, she knew it was there, but this behavior was completely out of the norm.

“I don’t know Annie,” he replied, raking a hand through his hair. I just saw the way he looked at you, the way you looked at him, and, well, I don’t know how to explain it.”

“Cameron,” Annie whispered, unconsciously placing her hand on his jaw, “of course it was all an act. We knew this was going to happen, that his flirtation would only intensify. That’s what you brought me here to do, isn’t it?”

“Yes. And I could handle the flirtation, but his blatant attempt at seduction, that is just beyond me,” he explained. He was acting irrational and he knew it. This was the goal from the onset, for Annie to get as close to Major Andre as possible, to gain knowledge and evidence of not only the traitor that they knew about, but any other intelligence that had gone undiscovered to history. Still, knowing the plan and actually seeing it in action were two completely different things.

“Cameron,” Annie said, not sure how to go on. She could understand his frustration. Over the past month they had grown closer each day. Granted, he hadn’t kissed her since that night at Anna Strong’s house, but their emotional attachment had grown stronger. Annie had tried to ignore it, to focus on the task at hand, but that became more difficult with each passing day. Furthermore, she knew that tonight would be the most challenging night of all, since Cameron would be in attendance at the dinner. And while she would be Major Andre’s guest, deep down she desired that Cameron were the one escorting her to the party. “Please, Cameron, do not doubt me.”

“I’m not doubting you. I’m just concerned for you,” he replied, lowering his head until their foreheads rested together.

“I appreciate your concern Cameron, but I’m a big girl. I can handle myself. Please, trust me,” she whispered.

“I do trust you. I do not trust him,” he murmured.

“Then trust that I will take care of myself. I need you to do the same, Cameron.” Her voice was laced with concern. “I have no idea what happens to you. I didn’t get to research your past as much as I wanted to. So please, stay alert. I would hate for anything to happen to you.”

Cameron merely nodded. “I understand. And I will be careful, not just tonight, but every day to come.”

“Good. Now can we go home? I have a lot to accomplish before dinner tonight.”

“Of course,” he whispered. He gave Annie a soft kiss on her cheek then turned and led her out of the alleyway. Once on the street their intimate behavior of moments past was replaced by the actions of a close acquaintanceship. To anyone watching it would just appear as if they were friends, which is how it had to be in public.

They reached the boardinghouse around one o’clock and went to their separate rooms. Annie called for a bath to be sent up. She bathed quickly and pulled on a dressing gown. Once the tub was removed from her room she bolted the door, sat down at the desk, and pulled out today’s letter, cipher, her notebook, and pen. The room was lit by a single candle and small streams of sunlight that peaked through the curtains. It was more than enough light for Annie to see. She placed the cipher over the letter and transcribed the message.

Demons from the past will rear their ugly heads again.

You must confront these

demons head on, not just for the sake of your mission,

but for the sake of you mind and soul.

Face what must be faced, resolve what must be

resolved, and embrace that which must be embraced.

Your future depends on it.

This message was shorter than the others, but its meaning was clear. Annie knew exactly what the author was speaking of. A chill ran up her spine. The message implied that her relationship with Major Andre was at a turning point. Whether that turning point would occur tonight or in the near future she did not know.

Annie placed the letters back in her bag and tucked it in its hiding spot. She walked over to her bed, sat down, and began working through her demons.

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