Camp Follower: A Mystery of the American Revolution

BOOK: Camp Follower: A Mystery of the American Revolution
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Camp Follower

A Mystery of the American
Revolution

by

Suzanne Adair

A deadly assignment. A land
poisoned by treachery and battle. She plunged in headfirst.

Late in 1780, the publisher of a
loyalist magazine in Wilmington, North Carolina offers an amazing assignment to
Helen Chiswell, his society page writer. Pose as the widowed, gentlewoman
sister of a British officer in the Seventeenth Light Dragoons, travel to the
encampment of the British Legion in the Carolina backcountry, and write a
feature on Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton. But Helen's publisher has
secret reasons for sending her into danger. And because Helen, a loyalist, has
ties to a family the redcoats suspect as patriot spies, she comes under
suspicion of a brutal, brilliant British officer. At the bloody Battle of
Cowpens, Helen must confront her past to save her life.

Acclaim for Suzanne Adair

Paper Woman

winner of the Patrick D.
Smith Literature Award

"...a swashbuckling good mystery yarn!"

—The Wilmington Star-News

The Blacksmith’s Daughter

"Adair holds the reader enthralled with constant
action, spine-tingling suspense, and superb characterization."

—Midwest Book Review

Camp Follower

nominated for the Daphne du
Maurier Award and

the Sir Walter Raleigh Award

"Adair wrote another superb story."

—Armchair Interviews

Regulated for Murder

"Best of 2011,"
Suspense
Magazine

"...Driven by a desire to see justice done, no matter
what guise it must take, [Michael Stoddard] is both sympathetic and
interesting."

—Motherlode

Books by Suzanne Adair

Mysteries of the
American Revolution

Paper Woman

The Blacksmith's
Daughter

Camp
Follower

Michael Stoddard
American Revolution Thrillers

Regulated
for Murder

Camp Follower

A Mystery of the American
Revolution

by

Suzanne Adair

Copyright © 2008 by Suzanne
Williams

All rights reserved. No part of
this publication may be reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information
storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
The characters, incidents and dialogue herein are fictional and any resemblance
to actual events or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

eBook conversion December 2009

Excerpt of
Regulated for
Murder
© 2011 by Suzanne Williams

Cover design by Karen Lowe

Acknowledgements

I receive help from wonderful
and unique people while conducting research for novels and editing my
manuscripts.
 
Here are a few who
assisted me with
Camp Follower
:

Mary Buckham and her January
2007 online course on "The Hero's Journey"

The Guppies October 2005
"Chocolate Challenge"

The 33rd Light Company of Foot,
especially Ernie and Linda Stewart

Carl Barnett

Lonnie Cruse

Bonnie Bajorek Daneker

Marg Baskin

Howard Burnham

Larry Cywin

Mike Everette

Jack E. Fryar, Jr.

Nolin and Neil Jones

Rhonda Lane

John Robertson

John Truelove

Dr. Alan D. Watson

Camp Follower

A Mystery of the American
Revolution

by

Suzanne Adair

Chapter One

Wiltshire, England — 1768

NELL CLENCHED
HER petticoat and followed the maid down the oak stair at Redthorne Manor.
 
Her burgundy silk gown whispered
elegance.
 
Since she'd been a little
girl, she'd dreamed of wearing just such a lady's gown.
 
A mirror in the maid's attic bedroom had
implied a magical transformation with the borrowed clothing.

But apprehension
agitated her pulse and yanked her attention off the luxurious brush of silk
upon skin.
 
Procured to be the wife of a
merchant: Nell entertained no hopes for a better lot in life.
 
Earlier that year, another girl her age was
sold to a bordello to ease her father's debts.
 
A second girl, indentured as a servant in London, had brought her
widowed mother a healthy purse.
 
In the
village, Nell's future meant more thrashings from drunken parents and marriage
to a local lout.

She murmured
pleas for succor from the Great Lady and the Lord of the Wild Beasts.
 
The maid threw a backward glance at
her.
 
Annoyance soured her appealing
features.
 
"Hurry up, you."

At the foot of
the stairs, Nell stumbled and righted herself.
 
Three centuries of nobility smirked disdain from portraits on the
walls.
 
She caught up with the maid,
each breath sliced into gasps by stays laced tight to swell her bosom.
 
Thoughts leapt and tangled in her head.

Nose in the
air, the maid opened the parlor doors.
 
"In there."

Two men in their
early thirties turned from the fireplace to regard her: Lord Ratchingham's
youngest son, Dick Clancy, and a shorter, rounder fellow with brown eyes and a
powdered wig.
 
Their leers flushed
Nell's veins with panic, fired her instinct to flee.
 
The maid shoved her farther inside.
 
"Get on with you!"
 
Then she closed the four of them into the parlor, curtsied to the men,
and assumed her post on a stool near the doors, leaving Nell standing.

Tow-headed
Clancy approached, and his leer sprouted teeth.
 
"She cleaned up well, Annie.
 
Another shilling for your efforts."

The maid caught
the coin flipped her way.
 
"Happy
to be of assistance, sir."

He grasped
Nell's chin and tilted her head higher.
 
"Seventeen years old.
 
I
fancy 'em your age.
 
Little girls are a
waste of my time."
 
He released her
and trailed fingers across her left breast, and she flinched.
 
"Now, now, don't you worry.
 
If Silas Chiswell doesn't want you, you
shan't go to waste."
 
Her pulse
beat staccato revulsion.
 
"But I
believe you'll dazzle Chiswell.
 
Here,
say good morning to Mr. Tobias Treadaway, the procurer for this
arrangement."

She shrank at
his approach, at the memory of a darkened tool shed, and batted back the
six-year-old nightmare.
 
After today,
maybe she'd never see Treadaway again.
 
No telling what else he procured, besides young women.

He showed no
sign of recognizing her.
 
"What's
your name, wench?"

"N-Nell
Grey."

Treadaway
coughed.
 
"Nell Grey?
 
Sounds like a horse's name.
 
That won't do.
 
I shall change it to something striking, cultivated.
 
Let me think.
 
Nell is derivative of Helen, isn't it?
 
Helen.
 
Hmm.
 
Rare, but I rather like it.
 
Helen of Troy and so forth.
 
Very well, your name is Helen from this
point forward.
 
Understand?"

They were
changing her name?
 
She glanced from
Treadaway to Clancy.
 
They expected
compliance.
 
Her confusion was
immaterial.
 
She blinked back tears and
nodded.

Beneath his
wig, Treadaway's dark eyebrows met in scrutiny.
 
Clancy laughed.
 
"Very well, she isn't quite the blonde you requested.
 
More like honey, but still lovely, what
hey?
 
I like honey-colored hair on a
pretty woman."

"I've seen
her somewhere before."

Apprehension
curdled in her gut.
 
Treadaway
recognized her.

"Of course
you've seen her before, covered with a commoner's filth and hardly worth
notice.
 
This is Chiswell's first look
at her, though.
 
He'll find her
irresistible.
 
Smile, Helen."
 
When her lips were slow to comply, Clancy
gripped her upper arm, hauled her toward him, and snarled.
 
"Smile, damn you.
 
Don't ruin this by sulking."

Nell — no, she
was
Helen
now — grunted in pain.
 
Clancy's thumb dug into a weal her mother had made with a leather
belt.
 
She forced a smile to her
lips.
 
More tears stung her eyes.
 
In the world of procurement, a wife wasn't
so very different from a servant.
 
Or a
prostitute.

"Look
there, Treadaway.
 
She has all her
teeth, and they're white.
 
What do you
say?"

The procurer
walked away to pace near the front window.
 
"She carries herself like a commoner."

Clancy shoved
her away and whirled on Treadaway.
 
"I gave those drunken parents of hers six pounds to pay off
their debts, and I'll be compensated for it, by god.
 
Show her to Chiswell.
 
Let
him make up his own mind.
 
If you back
out on me, I shall see to it that you never again use Redthorne for your client
meetings while my father is away."
 
Harsh laughter erupted from him.
 
"Besides, after Chiswell finds out how my stepmother educated her,
he'll buy, oh, yes.
 
A common wench who
reads, writes, and ciphers!
 
You want
polish, I give you polish!"

Carriage axles
squeaked from the direction of the front driveway.
 
Treadaway ceased pacing and lifted the heavy velvet drape aside a
few inches to peer out the window.
 
Then
he allowed the drape to fall back into place.
 
"My client has arrived."

Clancy clapped
his hands once.
 
"Excellent."

Treadaway
massaged his temple.
 
"You don't
see the enormity of the problem.
 
Chiswell's mother, Agatha, expects the daughter of a merchant when he
arrives with his bride in Boston."

Boston, in the
North American colonies?
 
Her lot
couldn't be better in America.
 
The land
was full of savages who scalped women and skewered babies on branches.

Clancy
sneered.
 
"I'd like to see
you
find a merchant's nubile get on such short notice."

"You want
a commission, Clancy?
 
Sit beside your
friend the maid and follow her example of silence.
 
I shall manage this muddle, although I doubt it's
salvageable."
 
He strode over,
grasped Helen's forearm, and towed her to a plush chair in a shadowy
corner.
 
"Sit.
 
Straighten your back.
 
Fold hands in your lap.
 
That's it.
 
Keep your chin up.
 
Good.
 
You can be trained."

A wife was
expected to be trained, obedient.
 
Still, desolation bruised her soul, just as each inhalation aggravated a
bruise on her ribs, delivered two days before during her father's tirade over
how long she took to scrub their cottage steps.
 
She made her breaths shallow to compensate and remembered how her
parents bartered her price up with a lie that a small landowner like them
planned to wed her.
 
Then they'd lunged
for the money like feral dogs after a pig.

Foisted off on
a Colonial merchant to a land of bloodthirsty Indians, famine, and plague.
 
Anxiety ground at her gut.

The procurer
assessed her.
 
"I know I've seen
you around somewhere, girl."
 
The
leer returned to his mouth, and his fingers tickled her chin.

She jerked her
face from his touch.
 
Girl
.
 
The tool shed.
 
Bound wrists.
 
Nauseated,
she slammed the memories away with greater resolve.
 
Forget.
 
Must forget.

Treadaway
strutted for the parlor doors and conversed with the butler in the
doorway.
 
Then he shook hands with two
well-dressed men and led them into the parlor.
 
Faux-joviality creased his face.
 
"Brandy for either of you gentlemen?"

"I'll take
a brandy," said one.
 
From halfway
across the room, he stank of spirits, and Helen implored the gods that he not
be her future husband.
 
His bloodshot
brown eyes, sallow complexion, and disheveled graying hair — it all repulsed
her.
 
She'd seen plenty of the pain that
drove people to drink that way.
 
Being
drunk gave them an excuse to visit their agony on others.

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