Forging Forever

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Chapter 29

The tavern was dingy and dark. John was easy to spot among the ruffians. His clean military uniform and impeccable grooming made him stick out like a sore thumb. Annie, on the other hand, blended in perfectly with the rest of the tavern’s occupants. Her hair was pinned up and hidden underneath a hat. Her breeches and shirt were just tight enough to reveal her lean yet muscular figure, but not tight enough to reveal her more feminine curves. No one would guess that she was a woman.

Annie spotted John and his companion at a table in the far corner of the bar. She was able to find an empty table close enough for her to hear their conversation, yet far enough away to not arouse suspicion. She sat down and ordered a beer. The barmaid hurried off to fetch it and returned moments later. Once she had gone back to her duties Annie focused on the conversation taking place a table away from her.

“Jesus John, could you be a little more obvious?” Benedict Arnold surveyed his companion’s appearance as he sat down at the table. “Why not just announce to the whole bloody tavern that we’re planning something.”

“I apologize Benedict, my attire could not be helped. After tonight’s activities I did not have time to return home and change to less conspicuous attire. Besides, this should not take long.”

“Tonight’s activities. I’m assuming you are speaking of the party you attended with Miss Johnson.” John’s silence gave Benedict the answer he required. “I thought so. She is quite beautiful. Tell me, have you taken her to bed yet?”

“I’m not going to dignify that with an answer,” John snipped.

“That’s what I thought. Damn John, I never realized a mere slip of a woman could give you so much trouble.” Benedict chuckled at his friend’s struggle.

“She is proving to be more difficult than I thought,” John admitted. “I’ve used nearly every trick in my book, short of forcing her that is. I would hate for it to come down to that.”

“We do what we must,” Benedict said matter of factually.

“Enough of this. Let’s get down to business. Do you have a date set?”

“Yes, September 21st at midnight. We’ll meet at the harbor just south of West Point. I’ll have all the required documents.”

“Very well. I’ll have to leave town to make arrangements for the peaceful surrender of West Point. Once the arrangements are made I will meet you at our agreed upon meeting place,” John replied. “This will be our last contact before your surrender.”

“Very well.”

“Is there anything else you wish to discuss?” John was eager to leave the tavern.

“When will you leave?”

“In five days. I have something I must do first.”

“Something or someone?”

“Both,” John smiled.

“Well I wish you luck in your pursuit then,” Benedict chuckled.

“Thank you, but I won’t need it.” John thought about the statement Annie had made in the anteroom. Five days should be enough time for her to complete her cycle. Then he would have her. She would come willingly. He knew she would. He stood up from the table and left the tavern. Benedict followed behind him. The pair of them never even glanced at the occupant of the table next to them. They were completely unaware that their fates had just been sealed.

Annie waited five minutes before she got up from her table and left the tavern. Her blood was boiling. The very idea that he would take her by force made her sick. Although, after tonight she could not say she was surprised. He had nearly taken her in the anteroom at the ball. She had felt the restrained violence when she had pushed him away. Five days. She only had to hold him off for five days. It would take some creativity but she could do it.

Despite her fury, Annie moved quietly through the night, clutching the coded note that she had written weeks ago. For the first time she found herself grateful for Catherine’s appearance. For the most part Catherine’s appearance had just added another layer of difficulty to her task. The one positive effect was the fact that Catherine’s sudden arrival had forced Annie to write and code the notes ahead of time. That made it much easier for tonight’s drop. Instead of having to find a secluded place to jot down the information, all she had to do was drop it off then go back to the boardinghouse. After that she could focus on her next task: convincing Catherine to come home with her. Something told her that would be much more difficult than the task she was about to complete.

Annie reached the drop point. As she had done multiple times before, she weaved her way through the thicket of trees until she reached the large Oak tree in the middle. She placed the note inside the knothole then turned to leave. Halfway to the street she heard a twig snap. Dammit, not again Annie thought to herself. This time she did not hesitate. She pulled out her gun and hid behind a tree. She heard the person approaching. Something was dragging across the surface of the woods. The new noise sounded like women’s skirts. The figure passed right next to her. Annie felt skirts skim her ankle. A couple of seconds later she stepped from her hiding place and pushed her gun to the back of the woman’s head.

“Drop whatever weapons you have and turn around slowly,” Annie commanded in a whisper. The woman hesitated. “Do it now or I’ll pull the trigger. I have no qualms whatsoever about ending your life,” she lied. Annie had no desire to take another person’s life, even if it was to protect herself. Still, if it came down to her life or a stranger’s, well, she would not allow herself to die.

Finally Annie heard a gun and knife fall to the ground. The woman turned to face her. “Hello sis’. Finally we get to spend some quality time together,” Catherine sneered out.

“Catherine. I should have known.” Annie did not lower the gun. Even without weapons, Catherine could be dangerous.

“Now Annie, put the gun down. Can’t we have a civil discussion? I am after all your sister.” Catherine’s voice dripped with disdain.

“You would do well to remind yourself of that Catherine,” Annie replied.

“Really, Annie. Put the gun down. You are incapable of murder, especially of your sister.”

“I am not the one who came here with murder on their mind, you, however, did.”

Catherine’s slow smile was evil, bordering on demonic. “Not murder Annie, liberation.”

“Liberation? From what?”

“From your shadow. Once you are gone, my perfect sister, I will be the favorite.”

“Be the favorite? What the hell are you talking about? Mom and dad love us equally.”

“It’s you they gloat about. Your stupid accomplishments, your winning attitude, your brilliance. Frankly hearing about you every day makes me sick.”

“And you think with me dead it’ll all just stop? Are you insane?” Catherine did not respond so Annie continued. “Besides, your perceived slights are completely fictional. You’ve received everything you ever asked for.”

“That’s not enough. I want it all. I want to stop living in your shadow.”

“Killing me is not the answer. You want to outshine me, then work for it. Actually accomplish something by yourself instead of having it handed to you. If you kill me all you’ll ensure is living in the shadow of my memory.”

“No. They’ll eventually get over it.”

“You’re delusional. Now go home before you do something you’ll regret.” Annie put the gun back in her pocket and turned to leave, tired of dealing with Catherine.

Catherine let out a yell of anger. She would not be dismissed so quickly. She launched herself at Annie. Annie responded quickly. She grabbed Catherine’s arm and flipped her over her shoulder onto the ground. Annie placed her boot firmly on Catherine’s chest then pulled the gun from her pocket and pointed it at her sister. Anger bubbled in her and for a moment all she could see was a red haze around her. She switched the safety off. Her finger was placed firmly on the trigger. It took all her effort not to squeeze it and put an end to her sister’s life. Her conscience warred with her desire. Her conscience reminded her that she was not a murderer. This desire was not who she was. Her desire argued that she deserved it. She followed you back over two-hundred years to kill you. Now the tables are turned. She deserves it.

Catherine stared up at her sister. She had never seen this side of Annie before. Her hazel eyes turned dark green with anger. Her face was red, her mouth set into a grim line of resolve. Maybe she had underestimated her. For the first time, Catherine actually feared for her life.

Annie’s internal struggle was interrupted by a shout from the darkness. “You two, stay right where you are!” The voice had a heavy British accent. Annie turned and looked at her new adversary. It was a British soldier. “State your purpose here,” he commanded.

“My purpose here is none of your concern. This is a personal matter,” Annie hissed.

“It is my concern whenever a young woman is being assaulted,” he replied then turned to face Catherine. “Are you all right miss?”

Catherine nodded. “My sister and I are just having a spat,” she blurted out. Damn, what am I supposed to do now?

“Your sister?” The soldier was puzzled.

“Yes, her sister,” Annie said then removed her hat and hair pins. Her brown hair tumbled down her shoulders.

Immediately the soldier’s demeanor changed. “State your purpose here. Both of you.”

“As I said before, my purpose here is none of your concern.”

The soldier eyed her suspiciously. Suddenly a look of recognition crosses his face. “Hey, I know you. You’re Major Andre’s...” He never finished his statement. Annie pulled the trigger of her gun, the bullet hit the man square in the forehead.

“Get up,” Annie commanded, simultaneously offering her hand to Catherine. “We can’t stay here. Someone will have heard that.” Annie re-pinned her hair and shoved her hat back on then started running, pulling Catherine along behind her.

Catherine stared at the soldier’s dead body. Annie had acted without hesitation. Catherine’s insides went cold. Her sister was capable of far more than she had anticipated.

Adrenaline was pumping through Annie’s body, much as it had the night she herself had be shot. This time however, she was the one doing the shooting, not the other way around. She forced the memory of killing the soldier from her mind. She would have time to process that later. Right now she had to get Catherine out of here. Ideally she would be leaving with her, but her mission was not yet complete. Once Major Andre and General Arnold’s plot was discovered then she could leave. For now she had to stay, just in case something went wrong. She pulled Catherine along behind her, staying in the cover of the trees for as long as possible. Eventually they came to the street which was blessedly deserted. Annie pulled Catherine from the darkness and dashed across the road until they reached an alleyway. She navigated the maze of alleyways until they reached the boardinghouse where she unlocked the back door then took Catherine up to her room.

“Sit down and don’t move.” Annie pushed her sister down into the desk chair. “I’ll be back. Don’t touch anything.” Annie stormed out of the room and shut the door behind her, ignoring Catherine’s shocked gaze. She knew she had frightened her. Good, she thought to herself, maybe she’ll take me seriously now. Annie knocked on Cameron’s door.

“Who is it?” Cameron’s muffled voice emerged from the room.

“It’s Annie. I need you right now.”

“I’m coming.” He sounded wide awake now. A few moments went by. Finally he opened the door. “What’s wrong?”

“I need your help. Come with me.” Annie walked back to her room, Cameron close behind her.

Cameron started at the sight of the young woman sitting at Annie’s desk. “Who is this?”

“This,” Annie hissed, “is my beloved sister Catherine.”

“What is she doing here? Did she hurt you?” Cameron did not care that Catherine was listening. “Tell me Annie. I’ll kill her if she touched you.”

“No. She didn’t do anything to me. I stopped her before she could. Besides, there has been enough killing tonight.” Annie stepped closer to Cameron and whispered in his ear, “I cannot take anymore death tonight.”

“I understand,” he whispered back, then said in his normal voice, “Why did you bring her back here?”

“I couldn’t think of anywhere else to go, under the circumstances.”

“What circumstances?”

“I’ll explain to you later. Right now I need your help to get her home.”

“Of course I’ll help. What do you need me to do?”

“We need to get her back to Nissequogue tonight. I’d take her myself, but I’m afraid she’ll try to finish what she started tonight.”

“Very well. I’ll go saddle some horses. Meet me downstairs in ten minutes. If we ride fast enough we should be able to return before dawn.”

“Okay. Thank you Cameron.” Annie gave him a soft kiss before he left her room.

“Annie...” Catherine started, although she had no idea what she had planned on saying after that.

“Not now Catherine. You have caused too much trouble already. I suggest that you keep your mouth shut and do what you’re told. I may not be able to shoot you, Cameron on the other hand, will have no problem pulling the trigger.” Annie stepped closer to her sister. She still held the gun in her hand. “He doesn’t like you and he doesn’t have the blood ties that bind you and me together.”

Catherine swallowed then gave a nod of understanding. She looked even more afraid than before, Annie noticed. Annie felt a pang of guilt as she looked at Catherine’s face. She did not want her sister to fear her. But she did want her alive. Better she fear her and be alive. She could fix it later, if she got back.

“Here, put this on.” Annie tossed a pair of breeches and shirt at her sister. “It’ll make it easier for you to ride.” Catherine complied. “I’m afraid I don’t have a spare set of boots.”

“That’s okay,” Catherine whispered.

Annie looked at the clock. Eight minutes had passed. Quickly she picked up her satchel then dragged Catherine from the room. Neither one of them spoke as they left the house. They went out the backdoor. Cameron had two horses saddled. He led one over to Annie.

“This is yours. Your sister can ride with me,” Cameron stated flatly.

“Please, don’t be harsh with her. I think I scared her,” Annie whispered only to him.

“Good,” he replied. Annie gave the gun to Cameron then climbed on her horse. Cameron climbed onto his horse then pulled Catherine up behind him. “Don’t try anything. I’m not nearly as nice as your sister.” With that Cameron nudged his horse, Annie followed. A few minutes later they were galloping towards Nissequogue.

They arrived at the house two hours later. Fortunately it was still dark outside. They secured their horses to a couple of trees about a quarter of a mile away from the house. “You should stay here Annie,” Cameron said. “I’ll make sure she gets to where she needs to.”

Annie did not argue. She was too tired to. “Okay. Be careful.”

Cameron handed Annie the gun. “Take it. I have my knife. It’s much quieter. Besides, Catherine won’t give me any trouble, right.” Catherine nodded. “Good. This shouldn’t take long. I’ll be right back.” With that Catherine and Cameron disappeared into the night.

Cameron picked the lock and entered the house. It was quiet, too quiet. It felt deserted. Perhaps the family had left. That would be a lucky break. Still, he moved about cautiously. He removed his boots and stuffed them into the corner by the back door. He told Catherine to remove her shoes. She did. They tip-toed through the house and up into the attic. Finally they made it to the hidey-hole. Cameron shoved Catherine into the cubby and began to close the door.

“Wait.” Catherine stuck her hand out of the cubby, preventing it from closing.

“No. You’re leaving. That is final. Personally I would not have gone through the trouble of bringing you back here and sending you home. I’d have just shot you and been done with it. But your sister wants you to live and since I love your sister I’ll comply with her wishes, this time. However, if you come back I will not hesitate to protect Annie.” Cameron’s speech was cold, flat.

Catherine’s heart beat rapidly. She had no doubt that he would have no problem killing her. She found herself actually feeling grateful to her sister. The question was, was she grateful enough to spare Annie’s life. Should she tell him about their capture and death? No, she decided. It’s not like her parents would ever find out about her deception. Still, she needed to at least convince Cameron that she had had a change of heart. After that, history would take care of the rest. “I do not plan to argue. I do, however, have some information for you. Information that I believe Annie does not know.” Cameron looked unconvinced. “It has to do with Annie’s safety.”

“Fine. Make it quick,” Cameron said, not that he would believe anything Annie’s traitorous sister said. Every word that fell from her lips was a lie.

“Annie’s going to be captured on December 5th. She’ll die in British custody.”

Cameron nodded. “Why are you telling me this?”

“Believe me, it’s not because I care about her fate. But my parents would disown me if they ever found out that I withheld information that could have prevented Annie’s death.”

A wave of disgust washed through Cameron. Without a word, he shoved Catherine into the cubby and closed the door. He waited a couple of minutes then opened the door. Catherine was gone. With a sigh of relief, Cameron closed the door then left the attic. He made it out of the house and into the woods with ease. Once there he mounted his horse. Annie did the same. They rode hard and fast. They arrived back at the boardinghouse just as the first rays of dawn lit the sky.

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