Dean made up his mind. He was not going to panic. Never mind that Elizabeth’s news made it very difficult to enjoy the afternoon and evening. He briefly debated telling Robin and getting her advice. Very briefly. Dean took one good look at her and completely lost his nerve. Nonetheless, he refused to panic.
The next morning, he thought the whole matter over carefully. The important thing was to get Elizabeth home before she got too much further along. If an abortion was even possible in the seventeenth century, it could quite easily kill her.
Dean crept upstairs. Robin had made merry a little too late the night before and was still sound asleep. Elizabeth had shown Dean how to work the loose board some weeks before. Dean retrieved the dowel and went to work.
He found the time machine easily enough. Just in case, he left the secret loft and scurried out of the house. By this time he was familiar with the labyrinth. He slipped down two or three streets to a small courtyard. It was deserted, which wasn’t surprising when one considered that it was just barely after dawn, and very cold.
Dean turned over the machine in his hands nervously. He remembered Robin saying something about it being so user friendly even he could use it. That was no help. He pressed the button on the side. The keypad glowed. Dean wondered what to do next.
It was hopeless. Dean had a bad feeling that screwing up would only get him into worse trouble. He turned it off and hurried home.
Robin was still asleep when he got there. Elizabeth and Master Chandler were busy in the kitchen. Furtively, Dean hurried up the stairs and re-hid the machine.
It seemed the only thing left to do was to tell Robin the truth. But when she arrived downstairs, she was so surly and grouchy, Dean lost his nerve again. There was still a little time. Dean decided he would just have to wait for a good opportunity.
The next day was the Sabbath. The day after that, Master Chandler returned from one of his errands without his cloak and with a very guilty look on his face.
“Master Robin, you’ll have to help me,” he whispered very quietly to her in the best room. “Elizabeth is sure to be very angry with me.”
“I don’t doubt it.” Robin chuckled. “You barely lasted three days.”
“I didn’t give it away. I loaned it,” Master Chandler said earnestly. “The poor young man was freezing. He said something very curious about not checking the date before homing in. In any case, he promised to bring it back as soon as he got himself one.”
Robin grimaced. “I’ve got a bad feeling that’s the last we’ll see of your cloak.”
“Oh, no! He was very sincere. A good bright honest face.”
“Famous last words.” Robin took a deep breath. “Well, I’ll explain to Elizabeth. You may want to lay low for a little while.”
She left Master Chandler in the best room and went back to the kitchen, struggling for the right words.
Elizabeth was not very understanding.
“Why that..!” She groaned, too furious for words.
“Now, Elizabeth. He really did believe he’d get it back. He may just yet.” Robin sighed.
“He’s not that stupid.” She whirled away out of the room.
Robin shook her head as she heard Elizabeth calling for Master Chandler in the best room. There was no answer. Master Chandler must have taken Robin’s advice and gone out again.
Robin started as she heard Elizabeth pounding up the stairs. Master Chandler was rarely in his room during the day. Furthermore, Robin would have heard him answer Elizabeth’s call if he had been. Robin bolted upstairs.
Elizabeth stood in the doorway of Master Chandler’s room, gazing inside in shock.
“Elizabeth,” Robin said softly.
“What are these things?” she whispered, pointing at the small shrine and its candles. She turned on Robin. “You knew, didn’t you? I thought at first it might be. But then I thought, no. Robin wouldn’t support that. How could you!”
“How could I not?” Robin said with quiet anger. “Damn it, he saved Dean’s life!”
Elizabeth was shaking. “He’s still a filthy papist!”
“Yes, he is. He’s a priest, too.”
Elizabeth whirled away. “How could you have allowed such a thing?”
Robin exploded. “And how can you say that after all we’ve been through? After all the times someone’s wanted to hang us for no good reason besides hating us!”
“He’s in league with the Devil!” Elizabeth ignored her and paced in the hallway.
“He sure as hell doesn’t act like it! It seems pretty strange to me that someone working for Satan is gonna go around giving the food out of his mouth to anyone who needs it. Or risking his life out on the streets night after night to care for the sick.”
“Have you ever been to their services?”
“Yes. Have you?”
Elizabeth remained silent but had to stop pacing.
“Good lord, Elizabeth,” Robin continued. “How can you hate them without even trying to understand what they’re all about? That’s why there are witch trials, and all sorts of nonsense like that. That’s why we keep getting accused of witchcraft. People are so busy hating what they don’t understand, they refuse to take a chance on maybe finding something very good. It’s no wonder a little scratch can kill you around here.”
“But all I’ve ever known was that it was evil.” Elizabeth sniffed, suddenly very unsure.
“Elizabeth,” Robin sighed. “You know people to the very core of their being. I ask you. Is Master Chandler evil?”
“This is so hard.” Elizabeth sank down onto the floor and cried. “I know he isn’t. But must I deny everything I was ever taught?”
“I’m not saying you have to become a Catholic. I’m just saying that it’s a stupid reason to hate somebody. That’s all it really boils down to. You disagree, so you hate each other and try to kill each other. It doesn’t strike me as being terribly Christian.”
“It isn’t,” Elizabeth agreed. “So why does it happen?”
“I don’t know. Some of it’s a lack of education. But that’s not all of it. One of the worst bigots I ever knew had college degrees coming out his ears.” Robin slumped down next to Elizabeth and put her arms around her. “They’re still fighting it in my time. There are laws against discrimination, and people still hate.”
Elizabeth sniffed. “Maybe Master Chandler has the right way of it. He risked his life to take us in, and I’m sure not all who receive his charity are papists. He treats everyone the same. Oh, Robin. How am I ever going to understand?”
“I don’t understand a lot of things myself. But I think we’re both a lot closer to understanding now than we ever were.”
Elizabeth nodded, and laid her head on Robin’s shoulder.
The situation continued to perplex Elizabeth. She knew that Robin was right, as she was about many other things. But how could practically everyone else around them be so wrong? Perhaps it was not for Elizabeth to figure out.
The next day, Donald Long found himself carefully watching the candlemaker’s house from across the street. In Bath, Robin had actually found him before he’d found her. Or would. And Elizabeth had clearly been pregnant there. The question was when did he get her that way? At least, if he wasn’t successful in London, there was always whatever the next stop on the timetron showed – where the Parkers and Elizabeth had come from.
As another tall, thin man approached, Donald stiffened. Roger. Donald wondered how Roger had figured out the Parkers were at the candlemaker’s. The timetron’s log only showed a turn-on in the neighborhood.
Roger York smiled as he looked at the sign. This was where the man called Master Chandler had said. Roger patted the cloak in his arm. The candlemaker would be very surprised to see it back. He had tried to seem trusting. But Roger doubted the man was ignorant of basic human nature.
He knocked and entered. A young man dipping candles looked up and smiled casually.
“May I help you?” the young man asked.
Roger smiled back as he looked at the young man a little more carefully. There was something a little bit odd about him. He was taller than most men, about five nine, and slightly built. But that wasn’t what made Roger pause.
“I understand this is Master Chandler’s home,” Roger said finally.
“Yes, it is,” replied the young man. “What can I do for you?”
“I’ve come to return this cloak. Master Chandler loaned it to me yesterday.”
The young man laughed as he came over. “I don’t believe it, but great. I’ll see that he gets it. Thank you for returning it.”
“Please tell him how grateful I am.” Roger handed over the cloak, surreptitiously gazing at the young man.
There was an awkward pause.
“Well, good day, sir.” Roger said, and headed out.
Outside on the street, Roger paused. That little oddity was coming. A moment or so more thought and he would have it. It did almost in a flash. The young man had had no beard. He wasn’t merely clean-shaven. Roger was sure there wasn’t any beard to shave.
A hormone imbalance could easily explain it, and that sort of thing wasn’t unheard of. That would also explain why the young man’s voice, although tenor in range, had an immature feel to it. Of course another explanation might be that the young man wasn’t a young man, which would make sense given what the surveillance disk in the castle had shown. And if what Roger had found among Donald’s research was accurate, Roger had found Robin Parker and very probably her brother and Elizabeth and the missing timetron.
The sound of someone slipping on the icy cobbles destroyed Roger’s chain of thought. Just on the edge of his peripheral vision, he saw a familiar form as it righted itself just in time to give Roger a glimpse of his face before he took off running. Donald, damn him. Roger hurried after.
“Well?” Robin asked Elizabeth as they looked out the upstairs window to the street below.
“He’s running off.” she replied. “I saw something in the shadows. I get the feeling he did, too, and that’s what he’s chasing.”
“But he is…”
“Roger? Oh, yes. I recognized his voice. It’s a good thing I did. I almost started to come down.”
Robin frowned. “He was looking at me strangely. It can’t be that he recognizes me. He’s never seen me that I know of.”
“Perhaps it’s because you do look a little like a woman,” Elizabeth said gently.
“No one else seems to think so.” Robin was surprised by the bitterness in her voice, then stopped. “Wait. Maybe he did recognize me. There had to be some sort of surveillance in that castle room. Great. I wonder how much he knows about us.”
Elizabeth shrugged. Dean burst into the house.
“Elizabeth! Robin!” he bellowed.
They ran down the stairs. Dean was breathing heavily and his face was flushed with exertion.
“What is it?” Elizabeth cried.
“You guys aren’t gonna believe who I almost ran into!” Dean gasped.
“Who?” asked Robin.
“That Master Neddrick dude.”
“Are you sure?” Elizabeth squeaked.
“Oh, damn!” Robin snapped at the same time.
“I’m positive it was him.” Dean answered.
“Did he see you?” Robin demanded.
“I couldn’t help it, Robin.” groaned Dean. “I didn’t know he was there. But then I got this really weird feeling that someone was following me. I turned around and there he was. That’s what took me so long to get back. I hauled it out of there and ditched him.”
“We’ll have to flee again.” Elizabeth wrung her hands.
“I hope not,” Robin sighed.
“But, Robin,” Elizabeth protested. “Roger was just here, and now Master Neddrick.”
“Roger?” Dean squeaked. “Aw, crap, Robin. How the hell did he find us?”
“How the hell would I know?” Robin fidgeted as she wandered aimlessly around the best room. “All right. For the moment, we’ll have to assume we put Roger off. And just because Neddrick’s seen Dean doesn’t mean he’ll be able to find us. We’re innkeepers. People just don’t change trades like we have. Neddrick’s probably not looking for candlemakers. We’d better sit tight for a while. If we take off running now, while they’re both so close, they might spot us again. Not to mention the fact that it’s the middle of winter. That’s no time to be hitting the road.”
“We could go home,” Dean suggested.
“Not with Roger this close on our heels,” Robin said, then sighed. “Look, we don’t want to go rushing into anything. Give me a day or two to figure how to get home without leading Roger to us.”
Both Dean and Elizabeth reluctantly agreed.
But Robin didn’t even get until that evening. She was grateful that Master Chandler was off on some errand when the men arrived. Dean and Elizabeth were in the kitchen. Robin worked in the best room.
They burst in, ten strong, without warning.
“We’ve come for the papists!” their leader announced.
“There are none here!” Robin yelped indignantly.
The men swarmed all over the place. Robin couldn’t stop them.
“What the hell’s going on here?” Dean demanded, bursting into the room.
“Bind the two of them!” the leader commanded.
Elizabeth slunk up the stairs. Three men pounced on Dean. He thrashed about, but the men knew their business and quickly had him face down on the floor and tied. Robin decided against struggling.
“And where do you think you’re going?” A man caught Elizabeth on the stairs and roughly dragged her down. “You whoring wretch!” He cuffed her, then tied her.
A minute later, there were sounds of cheering upstairs.
“Look what we’ve found!” two other men called as they ran down the stairs carrying Master Chandler’s vessels and crucifixes.
“They’re mine!” Robin cried out. “The others have nothing to do with it. Please, let them alone.”
The leader spat in her face. Robin flinched. The other men whooped with glee as they spilled the hosts onto the floor, then ground them into paste with their heels. Robin could hold it no longer. Her tears spilled down her cheeks, thinking of how sacred the small pieces of bread were to Master Chandler. He valued them above gold, even.
At the gaol the men took Robin away. Dean and Elizabeth were pushed into a cell filled with rotten straw. As the jailer stalked off, Dean wrinkled his nose at the stench. There were sounds of soft squeaking and scratching.
“Oh, no,” Elizabeth sighed, terrified.
“Terrific. Rats,” grumbled Dean. “It would sure be nice to have a cat around.”
“Don’t say that!” Elizabeth hissed.
Dean shrugged. “At least it’s not witchcraft this time.”
Elizabeth shuddered. Dean came over to her and wrapped his arms around her.
“Hey, we’ll get out of this. We have all the times before,” he told her.
“But there was always Robin before.”
“She’s gonna be okay. I know she is. She’s probably escaped already.”
“Dean…” Elizabeth’s voice broke.
“No. We’ve gotta keep our spirits up. We’ll get out of this. We will. We’ve just gotta believe that.”
Dean’s confidence faded completely late that night when they brought Robin to the cell. She was unconscious. Her eyes were puffy and bruising. Blood had dried underneath her nose, and along the corner of her mouth. From her temples rose a sickening stench, and they were bright red with dark circles around the patches.
“What the hell did you do!” Dean flung himself at the bars of the door, and yelled, swearing, after the jailer. “Can’t you face me? What did you do?”
“Dean!” Crying, Elizabeth pulled him back from the door. “Here, help me lay her out.”
Dean choked. “She’s dead?”
“No. Help me make her more comfortable. Come, Dean. Here’s some straw that isn’t so old. It’ll make a good pillow.”
Dean complied meekly. A few minutes later, they heard the clanking return of the jailer. Dean stiffened, but resolved not to lose it again.
“It’s good of you to come, your reverence,” the jailer was saying. “But I don’t see as how it’s worth it. I’ve dealt with these papists before. They’re as stubborn as they come. Worse than most.”
“And all the more needful of Our Lord’s mercy, my good sir,” replied the man with him. He was wearing black, and his face was shadowed over by the wide brim of his hat. Elizabeth gasped. “Would you take a chance on losing these poor souls to the Devil just because you lack faith in God’s power?”
“I ‘spect not, your reverence. Well, here we are. Just yell loudly if you need me. I’ll be just at the end of the corridor.”
“Thank you muchly, my good man.”
The jailer unlocked the door, admitted the tall, thin newcomer, then locked the door behind him. The man waited, standing perfectly still, until the jailer was well out of earshot. Then he shifted into action, bending over Robin’s still form and reaching for her pulse behind her jaw.
“Weak, but holding on well.” He shook his head. “The beasts.”
“Who the hell are you?” Dean demanded. Something was wrong with the newcomer’s actions, but Dean was at a loss to say what.
The man turned and removed his hat.
“Roger,” sighed Elizabeth.
“Oh, hell!” Dean approached menacingly. “You get away from her!”
Roger shook his head. “She needs treatment, and you are far too young to be qualified or capable of giving it to her.”
“I got basic emergency care.” But Dean stopped.
“I am a certified sub-medical, which trumps you several times over.” Roger bent over Robin once again. This time he probed with his fingers, searching for broken bones. “I appreciate your distrust. However, there is not time for it. Will you help me remove her boots?”
“I’ll help you..!” Dean advanced again.
“Dean!” Elizabeth yelped, stopping him. “Please. I know he’s after us, but I don’t think he’ll hurt her. Please, Dean. We need his help.”
Dean looked at Elizabeth, then sighed. “All right.”
“Good.” Roger shifted around. “You hold her leg stable while I remove the boot. There we are. Now, the next one.” He nodded as Dean did as he was asked. “You’ve got quite the touch.”
“It’s in the family,” Dean stammered. “My mom’s a doctor. Back home.”
Roger smiled over at Elizabeth, a little sheepishly, then turned back to examining Robin.
“I suppose I should have stayed in the castle,” Elizabeth said softly. “I’m sorry, Roger.”
Roger shrugged. “It doesn’t matter now. Although you should refer to me as Reverend James for the time being.” He looked over at Dean. “I’ve been talking to your neighbors. Let’s see. If you’re Dean, then this is Robin?”
“Yeah. She’s my sister. Well, she’s supposed to be my brother.” Dean shuffled again. “Robin Parker. I’m Dean Parker.”
“Yes. I got that.” Roger nodded as he finished his examination. He removed a small flask from somewhere inside his cloak. “Well, the good news is that she doesn’t seem to have any broken bones or internal bleeding.”
“What’s that?” Dean asked, nodding at the flask.
“Phenyl-trichloroacenol. Something I seriously doubt you’ve heard of.”
“That’s not surprising,” Dean shrugged.
Roger smiled. “It’s a powerful restorative, excellent for quickly healing contusions and other minor cuts. If your sister is to do any time traveling tomorrow, she’ll have to be in much better shape. Open wounds are very dangerous in the drop. Those burns on her temples worry me a little.”
Dean nodded. “I wonder how those happened.”
“Probably made with a poker. Very common for this era. I suspect she probably fainted from the pain. I have a salve that will hopefully hold through the drop. But first this.” He dropped some of the liquid from the flask onto his forefinger. Opening Robin’s lips with his other hand, he slid the forefinger between her teeth. “There you go. Now, start swallowing.” He massaged her neck. “It’s also good for anesthetic purposes. Let’s get some more down.” He repeated the performance.
Robin stirred. Roger set the flask down and removed a tube from his cloak. He applied some of the contents to the burns.
“Oh, good.” He smiled. “She’s accepting it already. There’s a good chance it won’t even scar.”
He replaced the tube in his cloak, then fed her some more liquid from the flask. Robin stirred again, this time waking.
“They didn’t know. I promise you,” she whispered, her eyes still closed. “The candlemaker had no idea.”
“It’s all right,” Roger said. “I’m not an inquisitor. But do me a favor and drink some more of this.”
Robin sipped, then took another good swallow. Roger pushed for one more long drink. She took it. Her eyes fluttered open as he took her pulse.
“Who..? Oh. You’re the young man who returned the cloak.”
“Yes. Roger,” said Elizabeth softly.
“What!” Robin yelped weakly. She feebly struggled.
“Hold on! Hold on!” Roger pinned her. “You’re still too weak to try moving around. Rest now. Give the medicine a chance to work.”
She moaned softly. “Everything feels so funny, like my whole body’s gone to sleep.”
“That means it’s working.”
“What are you doing here?” she asked, laying back on the straw again.
Roger smiled. “I’m supposedly trying to convert you three to the true faith, and hopefully they’ll just keep you jailed instead of hanging you.”
“They’ll never believe it,” Robin groaned.
“Why shouldn’t they?”
“Hey, I’ll convert,” Dean volunteered.
“It doesn’t matter,” Elizabeth said. “We’re already converted. Roger is just going to tell them that he converted us because they think we’re Catholics.”
“Precisely.” Roger nodded.
“They’ll never believe it,” Robin sighed.
“Why not?” asked Roger.
“Because I confessed.” Robin sniffed. “It was the only way I could think of to save Master Chandler. They’d heard there was a priest in the neighborhood. I knew they’d go after him, so I told them I was the priest. Threw some Latin at them. Domino vobiscum and a few plant names. That convinced them. I just hope Master Chandler doesn’t get the same idea to try and save us.”
“He already did,” Roger said. “Fortunately, I convinced him that I had a better plan that would allow him to escape and serve others. I’ve got some other members of his parish holding him down now just in case.”
“Thank God,” Robin whispered.
“It looks like my plan isn’t going to work though.” Roger sighed. “They’ll hang you for sure now, and probably torture Dean to find out if he’s a priest also.”
“Your reverence?” the jailer called.
“I’m quite well, sir,” Roger called back. “I’ll call for you shortly.” He stood and thought for a long moment. “There are other options.”
“Why don’t you just zap us out of here right now?” Dean suggested.
“Because I do not carry the timetron with me. Once I’ve made it through the drop, I hide it, so I can move about freely without detection by the locals. We’ll have to make the break, as it were, tomorrow. I seriously doubt they’ll carry out the execution right away, not with a civil disturbance on, but there’s no point in chancing it. I’ll have to try and find out their plans for you. That shouldn’t be too hard. I’ll be back tomorrow morning, in any case. Robin, you will be feeling a lot better in a couple hours. You’ll still be fairly weak for another eighteen hours, at minimum. But I would recommend appearing more like they would expect.”
“Yeah,” Robin whispered.
“I think I’ve got a plan coming.” Roger smiled. “Yes. It’s there. I’ll be spending my night refining it. You three rest up, and whatever happens, keep your heads. It’s your only chance.”
Roger called for the jailer, and a few moments later was gone.