Authors: Gian Bordin
Fortunately, it was too early for anybody to be around yet, and by
various detours she sneaked back to the rear entrance of The White
Heron without encountering a person. Leaning against the fence, she
caught her breath. The grating of the gate opening sent her into panic.
She began to breathe again when she saw Owen enter and quickly pull
the gate shut, a broad grin on his face.
He took her hand, leading her toward the kitchen, and said with a
pleased sigh: "That was a close call, lady… But where’s master Andrew?"
Spontaneously, Helen hugged him, pressing his head to her bosom,
saying "Thank you, Owen, thank you… Andrew went overboard."
He freed himself and said importantly: "Then I better go and find him,
lady. He may need help too."
"Owen, you can’t go now with the policemen still searching out there.
They’ll catch you."
He only smiled and answered in a cool voice: "They won’t. I already
changed clothing and wear a hat now too. Don’t I look almost respectable?" He grinned at her challenging.
Before Helen could say another word, he disappeared again through
the gate. Shaking her head, she entered the kitchen, where Rose was
working on the stove. She immediately put down the pan and rushed
over, embracing her, then holding her away to look at her, laughing the
freeing laugh of relief, and hugging her again.
"Oh, am I so glad to see you, Helen! When I heard the police were
searching the wharf, I immediately got Owen… But where’s your young
In terse sentences, Helen told her what had happened, and how Owen
had led the police on a wild goose chase.
"I knew he could to do it," chuckled Rose proudly.
"But won’t the police now search every house near the wharf?"
"They might come and inquire, but they know me. I’m clean with
them. Meanwhile, you’ve a rest in your little room. You look like you
Which was true! The pressure and tension, the changing fortunes, the
lack of sleep—
Was it only twelve hours since she was in the tolbooth
went fleetingly through Helen’s mind
she could hardly keep her eyes
open. However, she fought it. She wasn’t willing to rest without knowing
whether Andrew was safe.
Rose guessed her thoughts. "Go now, lass. I wake you immediately
when I hear anything about your young man. Until then, there’s nothing
you can do… You want a drink?"
Helen shook her head, and Rose forcefully took her to the little
bedroom. She only removed her boots and jacket, fell onto the soft bed,
and within seconds was out, all her effort to stay awake in vain. Rose
covered her with a wool blanket, and watched her for a moment, a warm
glow in her eyes, and then went back to the kitchen.
* * *
About an hour later, when the last couple of guests of the White Heron
finished their breakfast, Constable Fraser entered the tavern. Rose
greeted him with one of her effusive smiles: "Constable Fraser! I’ve not
seen you for ages. What can I do for you? You let me serve you a hot
coffee. I just made a fresh pot. If I remember rightly, you take it black,
don’t you? I need one too."
Without waiting for his reply, she fetched two cups and got the pot
standing on the stove. He seemed to be of two minds, but when the
enticing smell of the fresh brew reached his nose, he sat at the table
where Rose had placed two steaming cups. She seated herself opposite
him, and sipped her coffee, watching him with an eager expression,
waiting while he took small, careful sips. He nodded approvingly.
"That feels good. I swear you serve the best coffee in Glasgow, Rose,"
were his first words. And then he cleared his throat and said: "You must
have heard about the young man who escaped from the tolbooth
He looked at her expectantly.
She nodded with a smile: "Who hasn’t? Quite a daring act. I also heard
rumors that Joe, that hopeless drunk, was involved. It must’ve been one
of his few moments when he was sober enough to stand straight."
"Yes, Joe—what’s his name again? … Oh, it escapes me right now—"
"I didn’t know he had a last name," she interjected sarcastically.
"Anyway, Joe came with this young woman, claiming to be the young
man’s father, and the turnkey didn’t recognize him—he was so neatly
made up, and then he exchanged places with the prisoner."
"Nobody recognize him? I mean, this is hard to believe."
"I agree with you fully, but that’s water down the Clyde. We’ve been
searching for them ever since last evening. I won’t rest until we catch
"Ah… In this area?"
"Yes, we’ll check every vessel leaving the wharf."
"I see, as a precaution? … But come to think of it, the lass must have
come down to the wharf, otherwise she couldn’t’ve engaged Joe, …
unless Joe’s really the young man’s father. His wife had a teenage son
when she finally got sick of his drinking and returned to her folks in
Lanark. It must be nigh ten years ago already."
"I don’t think so. I actually arrested the young man. He claimed to
come from Argyle, although my impression was that he’s English. He has
a strong southern accent. The trouble is, I should have taken a more
careful look at his wife when I arrested him at The Good Shepherd."
"They stayed at The Good Shepherd? They’ve expensive taste!"
"I guess you’re right… Look, Rose, the reason I’m here is to ask if you
did see the young woman. All we know is that she has red hair, is of
medium height, dresses expensively—according to the turnkey, she wore
a gray skirt, white blouse, and dark jacket. He also said that she’s good-looking. ‘Striking’ was the word he used. The trouble is that no more
than half an hour ago I talked to a young woman who fitted that
description. But when we chased after a young man who had been seen
hiding in Jarvis’ warehouse, she got away from one of our new recruits."
"She got away?" Outraged surprise colored her voice. "What kind of
recruits do you get now-a-days who can’t even hold on to a young
"Oh, she was quite nasty."
"What do you mean by nasty?"
"She kicked him in the groin. He still has trouble standing straight, the
Rose whistled through her teeth, shaking her head. "She’s quite a lass.
First, springing her man from prison and then cutting down a policeman… I can’t help admiring her a bit."
"Yes, she is. I really misjudged that pair completely. When the provost
told me to lock up the young man, I felt quite sorry. He had this innocent
look about him. But I’ll have no pity for him, not after what happened
last night. How he got his wife to fool the prison wardens so brazenly is
Naturally, it would never occur to you that a woman planned all this,
she said silently to herself, smiling inside, feeling smug.
He continued: "You know, we searched all over the city for that horse,
every single inn. I think yours was the only one we didn’t search, but then
only sailors would ever know of your place anyway."
She suppressed a grin and nodded vigorously.
"And then in the middle of last night, we got this anonymous letter
that we would find the horse in the stables of The Golden Eagle. And it
was there. But when our men tried to detain the highlanders who were
lodging there and claimed to own the four horses in the stable, they got
beaten up rather badly. The one guarding the stallion managed to ride
away and call for reenforcements, but when we got to the inn, the four
"You don’t say! Could they have been the young man’s accomplices?"
Constable Fraser pondered this for a few seconds, as if that thought
hadn’t occurred to him. "If they were, why would he have denounced
"How do you know that he wrote that anonymous note?"
"We found a second on the stallion, signed by him."
"Well, they may have fallen out with each other. You know how
readily these Highlanders pick a quarrel."
"That could explain a few things…" He left the sentence hanging in
midair. "Anyway, as I started to say before, we are looking for all of
them, and particularly the young couple. The young man is about the
same height as I, just a bit slimmer." He patted his bulging stomach.
"Black hair, well spoken. He had a full beard, neatly trimmed, but is now
probably clean shaven—"
"I haven’t seen anybody fitting this description, nor did I see the lass
around here," interrupted Rose again, "but if I hear anything, I’ll let you
know. In fact, I’ll make some discreet inquiries among my regulars… So
Joe’s really involved. I’ve a hard time believing that. What’s going to
happen to him now?"
"Apparently, he’s still too drunk to be questioned, and he won’t
remember anything. My guess is they’ll let him go in a week or so rather
than having to put up with him… But now, I better get back to my patrol
and see whether they have found any traces of that young man or his
wife. Thanks, Rose, for that delicious coffee. I really should visit you
"Yes, Constable Fraser, you do that!"
She followed him to the door.
"Had any trouble lately?" he asked, pausing briefly on the steps.
"You know me. I won’t tolerate trouble… No, all my patrons behave
themselves while I’m around."
He nodded, saluted, and walked away briskly in the direction of the
wharf. She watched him until he disappeared behind a warehouse. The
wind had abated and the cloud cover was hanging even lower, with a fine
drizzle falling. After closing the tavern door behind her, she leaned
against it and let go a relieved "oomph".
Three hours later, a miserable and cold Andrew sneaked into the
backyard of The White Heron, after Owen had made sure the coast was
clear. His clothes were still wet, or wet again from the steady drizzle, and
all crumpled up. His shirt was a dirty grey, rather than white.
"Oh, look at you, you poor man. You’re all wet. Change into something dry," exclaimed Rose, and then she caught herself. "Oh, you left all
your things on the Clyde." She filled a cup with hot coffee and passed it
to him. "Here, have at least something to warm you."
He took the cup gratefully and sipped the hot liquid slowly, looking
around, searching for Helen.
"She’s asleep," remarked Rose, guessing his intent. "The poor lass just
collapsed. I promised to wake her if I got any news from you. But now
that you’re back safely, we don’t have to disturb her."
He simply nodded. He felt leaden himself. After emptying his cup, he
begged: "May I see her?"
"Sure!" Rose showed him the way. Outside the door she whispered:
"You get undressed and rest too, and give me your clothes. I have them
washed and freshened up again."
He entered the little room and watched Helen for a few seconds,
before he shed his wet clothes and wrapped himself in a blanket. Then he
placed his garments on the floor outside the door.
For a while he wondered what to do. He was reluctant to wake Helen.
Should he lie down on the floor? Finally, he decided to join her on the
narrow bed. Gently, he moved her closer to the wall. She didn’t even stir.
With just enough space, he stretched out next to her. He had barely
closed his eyes when sleep conquered him too.