Dragging himself to the wall, Connor crawled up it to sit with his back hard against its moist rough surface. He closed his eyes, focusing on drawing air in and pushing it out of his lungs. He licked his lips, his whole body sluggish and watery. This new beating had not done him any good, especially given the fact that his side had been reopened and was bleeding again. How much more blood could he lose, he wondered, before his body gave up entirely?
On his right, he was aware of Weems watching him, concern written all over his thin features. Weems had been profoundly affected by the failure of their plan. He had been in turn angry and depressed, raining invective against the treacherous warden and his own stupidity in equal measure. He should have known, he’d said two days ago, that his inter-prison spy network had been compromised. He had never thought that one of his contacts was a Templar. He had never even known who or what the Templars were until now. Connor, in his lucid moments between beatings, had told him much about this group of men who strove to rule the world, to dominate it. That was why they secretly backed the British in this struggle, insinuating their own men into the British army and the Patriot ranks too, undermining both sides of the Revolution, using both in fact to achieve their own goals. The Templars cared little for the politics of war, for the Patriots, for the British and their king.
No, their goals were far more sinister.
Hence their takeover of this prison: to keep out of sight and out of mind those men – and women too – who had proven to be a thorn in their side but too hard to kill. It was the insignificant ones who died, were mutilated and tortured here and elsewhere. This lonely island, known to few and escaped by still fewer, was the perfect place to store the bargaining chips the Templars might need someday.
And Connor, being one of their most inveterate enemies, was a very valuable commodity to bargain with.
“Weems,” Connor whispered through his broken lips. “I am sorry I did not help you – as I said I would.”
In the dark Weems smiled, the tattered remains of his guard uniform revealing the bruises and contusions on his own body. He had not fared well either under the warden’s gentle ministrations. Some of his fingers were broken as well as some ribs cracked. Laughing hurt, talking was almost all he could bear to do.
“Do not feel guilty, Connor,” Mason forgave him. “After what you’ve told me over these three weeks, I think that a fellow inmate of the Bridewell prison would be the last thing on your mind.”
“You never did tell me how you ended up here,” Connor reminded him. The silence was becoming oppressive, the constant dripping of water along the underground wall of their cell a background noise, nothing more. Talking would alleviate somewhat the intense fear and sense of failure that the Assassin felt. For he was afraid: not for himself but for those in his life who cared about him, not only the two imprisoned here but also the Assassins out in the colonies. He was responsible if they failed in their main tasks of stopping the Templars’ spreading influence.
“Ah,” Weems laughed shortly and gasped in pain, holding his ribs. “Damn… I keep forgetting… to answer you… there was a riot and I managed to squeeze out before anyone missed me. Found a Red Coat who was too drunk to know when he was being robbed and borrowed his clothing.”
“Borrowed?” Connor half-smiled in the dark. Mason Weems had a very wry sense of humour, verging on outright sarcasm at times. A rather refreshing trait as Connor himself did not possess much of a sense of humour and knew it.
“That’s one way of putting it. I did mean to return it – eventually.” Mason sighed and shifted his weakened legs carefully. The beatings had taken their toll on him as well as the Assassin. Their chances of getting out were slim at best and now in their less than ideal condition were fast becoming non-existent. “But I ran into a Patriot patrol – after I’d discarded the red coat itself. Without it one man looks much like another. I was able to convince them not to kill me there and then. One way or the other, I ended up being led before Washington.” He let out a low chuckle. “The very man who would lead us to freedom and I was right there before him…”
Connor did not say anything. His own thoughts about Washington after his father’s revelation of the Commander’s complicity in his mother’s death were not exactly cordial. The fact that he’d had to ask the man to come and see Miri here – that had galled, a lot. He was not ready to forgive, or forget.
“In any case, I convinced him that my value lay in the spy network that I had organized during my years in one prison or another. I was too outspoken an opponent of the British – that was enough to earn me a stint or two with other like minded people.” He slapped his hands on his thighs. “So here I am. Until now everything was going fine.”
“We need a way out of here,” Connor coughed, covering his mouth. Something hot and liquid spilled onto his palm. Briefly he closed his eyes, a cold fear stealing into him. Something was wrong – very much so. And he did not dare tell anyone. He had to remain strong because if he did not… he drove the thought away before he even finished it.
“A way out?” Weems echoed, sniffling. It was colder down here in this cell. Cold and moisture were not the best of companions for men already weakened. “The only way out I see is if we’re dead…” He tailed off, frowning. His voice became more intense. “Do you hear that?”
“That booming sound,” Weems explained moving in the darkness to find a better spot to listen to the new sound that he’d caught briefly over the thunder of the ocean. “There is a new pitch to it, a new tone. It is not the same.”
Connor, frustrated that he could not understand what Weems was talking about, sat up gingerly and tried to locate his fellow inmate in the impenetrable dark. Weems was on his knees, up against the right-hand wall, his face intent. Connor became aware of a whistling sound which he’d realized he had been listening to for a while without paying attention. Now there was another sound mixed in with the whistling wind and the boom of the surf: a dull thunder that seemed to have a pattern the longer he listened.
“Cannon fire…” he identified the deep booming at last. “But…” Recognition dawned belatedly, in a flash of instinct. “Aquila – Faulkner. He did not leave.”
“Or he left and then came back,” Weems corrected him, an excitement apparent in his voice. Connor could picture his friend’s face aglow with hope. “You have some very insistent friends, Connor.”
Some very stubborn first mates, rather, the Assassin thought sourly and yet was secretly relieved at Faulkner’s disobedience. Not that he would ever admit to such a feeling. He was the captain of the Aquila and not by nature a man who splashed his feelings around for all to see.
“They would have to search this building top to bottom to find us,” Mason reflected sitting back down in the dark. “And get through the warden’s guards. Everyone only sees one guard walking the rounds but the warden has a lot more at his disposal.”
“How many more?”
Mason’s answer was lost in a welter of lupine emotions that swamped Connor’s mind. He smelled salt spray and wet lupine fur. He heard men yelling and gun fire staccato. He saw the smoke of the cannons and felt the acridity hit his sensitive nose. He was running across the deck to the high place where the grey-bearded man stood near the round thing that guided this… thing. The wolf simply did not have words to describe a ship. His human brother understood, though. Faulkner indeed had other ships at his disposal. It was too dark to see any flags but the flashes of cannon fire were too many for just one ship to generate.
“Connor?” It was Weems. He was shaking his Native friend, alarmed by the sudden stillness from the other. “Are you alright?”
The Assassin gasped, blinked and at last focused on his fellow inmate’s features. Only belatedly did he realize he’d slipped into Eagle Vision that allowed him to see Weem’s thin bruised face.
“I am fine,” he whispered. “Fine.”
“What happened?” Weems asked, letting his hands fall.
“I… don’t know,” Connor lied, unable to formulate any explanation that Weems could accept. Weems was a rational man. Spirituality did not sit well with reason.
Weems was about to ask something else when there was a sudden clang from upstairs, outside of their cell. Somewhere up there a door had been shoved violently open, it seemed. There was yelling and the sound of steel on steel. The violence was brief, a scream cut off on a high note and something tumbled down the stairs. The two prisoners sat still in the dark, listening to the sound of footsteps. There was more than one set, a voice asked a question and then a face appeared in their doorway.
“Weems?” a man’s voice called. “Weems, are you here?”
“Gord?” Mason’s voice shook with excitement. “Gord, how -?”
“No time for that,” Gord cut him off, keys rattling in the lock. “We managed to slip past the distracted warden. There are ships out there, cannon balls raining down all around.” The door squealed open and two men stepped in with lanterns. “We came to get you out.” Two of the guardsmen, dressed in non-descript clothing, helped the two men to their feet. Connor swayed, fatigue draining the last of his strength but not his memory.
“Come,” Gord called from the doorway.
Connor raised one hand. “Wait.” He gathered himself, his thoughts, his feelings. “There is one more person here – a woman.”
”The redhead?” Gord asked, curiously looking at the tall Native. His eyes narrowed in the lantern light. “Wait a minute. You are the one – you came to see her some time back.” He shrugged and smiled. “It’s a breakout night – might as well break out everybody. All the birds flown – HA! Imagine the warden’s face when he finds that out.”
“Let’s go, Gord,” Weems admonished. “Or we’re all dead men.”