Chapter Nineteen

time travel, science fiction, serial fiction, serial science fictionThe bells of nearby Saint Paul’s Cathedral were the only clue Robin, Dean, and Elizabeth had that dawn was upon them. Robin decided that she would go ahead and take a chance on hinting to their captors that she was in better shape than they thought by putting on her boots. It was more than likely the jailer had never noticed they’d been removed the night before. By wearing them, Robin was ready for action.

She got up and walked around the cell, stretching out. Then she laid back down in the position she’d been in. Her temples felt sore and had an almost clothlike feel to her touch. She could tell the area around her eyes was very swollen, yet it didn’t hurt at all.

As Saint Paul’s tolled eight o’clock, they heard the jailer come.

“It’s more than they deserve, sir,” he said to his companion. “But I admire you for trying.”

Tall and cloaked in darkness as before, Roger nodded as the jailer opened the cell door. There was silence until the jailer left.

“Here, I’ve brought food.” Roger opened the cloak and brought out cheese, bread and some fruit.

“Oh, wonderful!” gasped Elizabeth, who had been working very hard to hide her nausea. She ate greedily.

Robin and Dean also made short work of the supplies.

“I brought your weapons, too.” Roger tossed the two swords, the belt knife and the pistol to Dean and Robin. “I searched Master Chandler’s house last night. I didn’t find anything else.” He looked at Robin. Her face remained blank. “Things aren’t quite that grim. Fortunately, the inquisitor has other commitments today, so he won’t be ready for you, Dean, until tomorrow sometime. I’ve been able to arrange for some help around dusk. I’ll expect you to be ready. Basically, I’ll get the jailer to open the cell again. We’ll disarm him, and go from there.”

“Why can’t we just do that now?” asked Robin.

“We wouldn’t get past the front door,” Roger said. “The help I’ve arranged will be creating a distraction, and will help cover us as we leave.”

“I say you oughta just get your little machine and zap us home,” grumbled Dean.

“Dean, you dope!” groaned Robin. “There are a lot of things we’ve got to consider before we do that.”

“Your sister’s right,” Roger said. “We’ll take care of those later. I’d better leave. Robin, you continue resting. It’s a little risky pushing you this soon.”

“Well, the alternatives aren’t exactly the greatest,” Robin replied. “I’ll be fine.”

Roger smiled warmly. “Yes, I believe you will.”

With that, he left.

About the middle of the afternoon, someone approached.

“It’s Neddrick,” Dean hissed to Robin, who was again laying down.

The tall blonde man stood and leered at the door to the cell.

“Well,” he sneered. “I can’t tell you how satisfying I find this. Of course, Mistress Elizabeth, you’re the one I really want. You know, if you just go ahead and give yourself over, I might find a way to get the three of you out of this mess.”

“But I don’t know what you want from me,” Elizabeth said.

“I do,” growled Dean. “You ugly, sick… You make me want to puke!”

“So be it.” Neddrick nodded at Robin’s prone form. “You’re next, you know, unless I prevent it. I can. I’m very good friends with the inquisitor. I’ll have her, either way. You may as well spare yourself the pain.”

Dean swallowed but did not answer.

“So be it.” Neddrick turned and left.

As the time passed, Dean got antsy.

“When’s dusk?” he asked out loud.

“Probably around five of the clock,” said Elizabeth.

Even as she spoke, they heard the church bells toll the hour, and the sound of someone coming. But it was three guards who accompanied the jailer. Roger was not to be seen.

“The inquisitor wants you now.” The jailer nodded at Dean, as he opened the door.

“What?” Dean demanded. “But he wasn’t supposed to want me until tomorrow!”

“Who told you that?” snapped one of the guards.

“Um.” Dean squirmed. “The guy that was here just this afternoon.”

“He changed his mind,” replied the guard.

The three men advanced. Dean hedged backward into the cell. Unsuspecting, they bore down on him. Backed up against the wall, Dean slowly sank to a squat. His hand slipped into the straw underneath him. He waited until the three men were almost on top of him.

“Now!” he yelled.

Straw flew as he whipped his sword out and charged. Robin sprang to her feet. She whirled around, pistol in hand, and fired at the jailer before he slammed the cell door shut. He fell backward grabbing his shoulder.

One of the guards swung around and cuffed Robin. She stumbled. The pistol fell and, still hot, skidded and sparked on the stone floor into the straw. Regaining her balance, Robin swung around, and landed an elbow into the side of the guard’s neck. He bent in agony.

Elizabeth tripped a second guard. She had the belt knife and went after him. He got a good grip on her hands and forced it from her. She sank her teeth into his wrist. Yelping, he let go. She punched him in the crotch. After struggling to her feet, she kicked him in the shin for good measure.

Dean still slashed at the third guard. The man barely had time to draw his own sword. He beat back the blows, backing up as Dean pressed harder. He made it through the cell door, then tripped over the downed jailer. Dean burst out and danced around the jailer’s prone form.

“Fire!” yelled the guard.

Dean ignored him and bore down on the guard. The guard picked up and ran off down the corridor. Only then did Dean turn. The straw in the cell crackled in a burst of bright flames.

“How the hell did that start?” Dean cried.

“The pistol,” Robin yelped. “Get going!”

She grabbed Elizabeth by the hand and pulled her out of the cell.

“Dean, wait!” Robin stooped as Dean paused. From the floor she grabbed two hats that had fallen off of the guards. “Here, put this on. Maybe we won’t look as much like prisoners this way.”

“Good idea.”

They ran after the fleeing guard. Three minutes later, five men appeared before them, carrying buckets of water.

“You there!” one of them called.

Robin grabbed Elizabeth’s arm. “We’re moving this prisoner before she gets away. She’s one of those papists that started that fire.”

“Pass then, and hurry back.”

Once past the men, Dean let out a deep chuckle.

“We’re not out of this yet, knucklehead,” Robin growled. “We’ve still gotta get out of this joint. Do you remember how you got in?”

“I believe so,” Elizabeth sighed. “But I do fear we missed the right corridor.”

“How far back is it?” Robin glanced behind her.

Elizabeth grimaced as a group of guards came running through the crossing corridor.

“Too far,” she said.

“Terrific,” groaned Robin. “There’s got to be another way out of here.”

People ran about everywhere. No one took any notice of the threesome. Robin found a stairway and led the group down it after Elizabeth assured her they had come up a staircase when they were brought in.

“Maybe if I can find where I was,” Robin muttered.

“There you are!” exclaimed a familiar voice.

They whirled around. Dean defensively stepped forward, his sword drawn and ready.

“It’s me,” said Roger. He stepped out of the shadows. “What are you doing out of your cell.”

“The inquisitor changed his mind and decided he wanted to see Dean early,” snapped Robin. “We decided we didn’t want to stick around. Do you mind?”

“Not at all.” Roger glanced back as another group of guards ran past. “I’ve been hoping you were behind this fire.”

“Well, it was an accident,” Robin conceded.

“A happy one.” Roger nodded. “Let’s take our leave. This way.”

Robin was forced to follow. On the street, men ran with buckets of water, while hordes of others came to sightsee. Roger pushed Dean and Elizabeth one way.

“You two go with them,” he directed, pointing into the crowd.

“Wait a minute,” began Dean.

Robin saw some familiar faces, men from Master Chandler’s congregation.

“Go ahead,” she hissed.

Dean and Elizabeth hurried away. Suddenly Robin felt lightheaded. She wavered. Roger had his arm around her in seconds.

“Make way!” he yelled. “This man is injured.”

They stumbled along until they were in an alley away from the action. Robin leaned against the wall of a house.

“I’ll be all right,” she gasped. “Just let me get my head down for a moment.”

She bent over. Roger checked her pulse at her wrist.

“Not good,” he said. “You shouldn’t be pushing it this hard.”

Robin winced. “Would you rather I was resting back in the cell?”

“I wasn’t discussing your options.” Roger’s voice was grim, but he couldn’t help smiling. “I’m merely concerned. It’s going to take most of the night to get to where we’re going, what with hiding and all. It won’t take that long to put out that fire, and they’ll start looking for you as soon as it is.”

“No kidding. Well, we’d better get hustling.” Robin straightened quickly.

Too quickly. The world went spinning and Robin sank. Roger caught her.

“Damn,” he muttered.

The rest house he planned on using was close by. He pulled Robin’s inert form over his shoulder and hurried on.

Dean and Elizabeth spent the better part of their evening underneath the hay of a market cart. They arrived at an inn on the other side of the Thames several hours later. Master Chandler was there and delighted to see them.

“Praise be to the Lord you’re safe!” he cried. “And where is Master Robin?”

“With that Roger clown,” Dean grumbled.

“Who?” asked Master Chandler.

“Reverend James took Master Robin with him,” said a man.

“Ah, yes.” Master Chandler nodded. “That was the plan. To be truthful, we didn’t expect any of you until dawn.”

“We found a cart,” said a young man. “Master Goodworth loaned it to us.”

“That was very kind of him,” Master Chandler said. “We must remember him in our prayers. As for you, Master Dean, Mistress Elizabeth, you must rest. We’ve beds for you. Come. You get some sleep and I’m sure Master Robin will be here quite soon.”

Dean was a little reluctant, but couldn’t think of anything else to do. Elizabeth asked if there was a bit of bread she could have. It was provided, and she fell asleep soon after eating it.

At sunrise someone woke Dean and Elizabeth.

“They’re coming!” said the young boy.

Dean was out of bed instantly. Elizabeth joined him in the best room. The early morning chill touched everything. Roger carried in what looked like a shrouded body.

“Where’s Robin?” Dean demanded.

“In here.” Roger indicated the shroud.

“What?” Dean lurched forward.

“Robin is completely alive,” Roger said. “He just passed out from the exertion. We couldn’t wake him, so we put him in here. It made it a lot easier to get him past the Roundheads looking for you three. Why don’t you help me get him upstairs and in bed?”

This was accomplished quickly. Robin stirred as they unwound the sheet. Roger shooed everyone out except Dean and Elizabeth. After getting rid of the sheet and Robin’s boots, Roger pulled his little flask from the depths of his cloak.

“Oh my…” Robin muttered. Her eyes slowly opened. “What happened?”

“I told you, you pushed it too hard.” Roger put the flask to her lips. “Drink this.”

“What is it?” Robin sniffed at skeptically.

“Phenyl-trichloroacenol.”

Her lip curled. “And what the hell is that?”

“A restorative. Now drink it.”

Robin sipped suspiciously. Roger turned to Dean and Elizabeth.

“There,” he said. “You can see she’s all right. Now could you please leave and let her get some sleep?”

“You guys okay?” Robin asked.

“Fine,” said Dean.

“Good.”

Dean and Elizabeth departed. Roger turned back to Robin.

“I’m afraid I’ll have to leave also,” he said. “I’ve got a couple things to look into and you really need to be sleeping to get your strength back. I want you to sleep for at least another three hours, then take it easy. You should be mostly back to normal by noon. I’ll be back by suppertime. After then we’ll talk.”

Robin looked away sadly.

“What’s wrong?”

“I suppose I should be grateful to you,” she said bitterly. “You did save our lives and I am thankful for that.”

“But..?”

“For what?” Robin asked. “What are you going to do to us? After all, we only wrecked your experiment. At least that’s what I’m assuming Elizabeth was.”

Roger chuckled. “Well, yes, she is, and it wasn’t wrecked. We’ll discuss that later, and I am very much looking forward to the discussion. Fear not, Robin. You haven’t escaped the frying pan for the fire. I’ll see you tonight.” He left.

Feeling oddly reassured, Robin settled back and went to sleep. When she awoke, Master Chandler was sitting by the bed.

“Oh, good,” she sighed. “You’re safe.”

“I was similarly concerned about you.” Master Chandler smiled.

She yawned. “How long have I been sleeping?”

“About four hours.” Master Chandler looked out the window. “The church clock struck ten not long ago.”

“Great.” Robin eased herself up and pulled her legs over the side of the bed. “I can get up now.”

“I thought you might be worried, so I went ahead and brought these up.” Master Chandler pointed to the three sacks.

“You got them!” Robin pounced on them. “You didn’t go back for them, did you?”

“I did.”

Robin glared at him briefly. “They weren’t that important. But I’m sure glad I’ve got them.” Robin smiled. The bags meant she wouldn’t have to depend on Roger anymore. Even if he didn’t seem angry at them, she didn’t quite trust him. “Well, this means we’ll be taking off right away.”

Master Chandler looked crestfallen. “Where to?”

Robin didn’t notice as she looked through the bags. “I’m not sure. Maybe the colonies. Who knows? London hasn’t worked out too well.”

“I can’t blame you.” Master Chandler sighed. “Come, my son. Let me give you my blessing.”

Robin bowed her head as he whispered the Latin words over her. He laid both hands on top of her head. He swallowed as he brought the hands to her cheeks and lifted her face to look at him.

“You have been so dear to me, my son,” he said.

Robin suddenly blinked back tears. “I can’t tell you what you’ve meant to me.” She pulled away. “Listen, take care of yourself, will you? This martyrdom crap may be great for your soul, but it’s pretty hard on the rest of us. Okay?”

Master Chandler nodded sadly. “I suppose it would be. You be careful also.”

“I will. Good bye, Father.”

“Good bye, Robin.”

Robin pulled on her boots and collected the sacks. With one long sigh, she looked at Master Chandler. She opened one of the sacks and pawed through it, making sure there was nothing in it but coins.

“You may as well take this,” she said handing it to him. “We won’t be able to use it where we’re going.”

“Are you sure?”

She strode out of the room, without answering and called Dean and Elizabeth.

“Come on,” she told them. “We’re leaving now.”

“What about Roger?” Dean asked, scrambling after her.

“Tough potatoes.”

“So where are we going?” Dean asked once they were on the street.

“Someplace where no one can see us, first,” Robin replied.

“Does this mean we’re going home?” Dean asked.

Robin turned on him. “Why do you have to keep on with that?”

“Perhaps it would be best,” said Elizabeth.

“But…” Robin turned to her. “Dean is talking about our home.”

“I know.”

“The place with all the magic you don’t like.”

Elizabeth swallowed. “I know. But it seems like everywhere we go here, we get arrested. I know it’s that Master Neddrick behind it.”

“I was going to take you to another time,” Robin said.

“Then why don’t we just go to your time?” Elizabeth asked. “I believe I can learn to like it. I understand a little better now.”

“I suppose,” Robin grumbled.

“You don’t want to go back, do you, Robin?” said Dean.

“Of course, I do,” she replied. “Well, maybe not just yet. I don’t know. I’m afraid if we go home, I won’t get to come back. This machine seems to be run on batteries, and I don’t know how much power we’ve got left. I’m pretty sure we’ve got enough to get home, but beyond that…”

Dean shrugged. “I guess I understand how you feel. But I’ve had enough history to last me a lifetime. Please, Robin, can we? We’re running out of places to go.”

“Not by a long shot,” Robin said. “But all right. Let’s get out on the road a ways before we do. I don’t think it would be very nice to let anyone see us disappear into thin air.”

Dusk fell as they came to the edge of the city. They spent the night at an inn, just for old time’s sake. The next morning, they took their time leaving. Close to noon, Robin called a halt. They left the road. Dean grabbed Elizabeth’s hand, then placed his other hand on Robin’s shoulder. Robin entered the coordinates into the machine. With a reluctant sigh, she hit RETURN.

Anne Louise Bannon

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