‘I will miss you.’
‘So you have said.’
‘Do you have to go?’
‘Will you come back to warm an old man’s bed again?’
Lacrimosa’s heart, supposing she had one, felt suspiciously heavy. She didn’t like the feeling. He was just another conquest after all.
‘Then come. Time grows near and we have taken too much of it already when we should have been preparing.’
Henry clicked his tongue and the hound came to stand by his side, sad eyes cast back to the merry fire.
‘Where have all the men gone?’
‘Come with me and see, but not a word to anyone about this, you understand?’
‘I have nobody to tell.’
‘I know I said I could retire, but I’m not ready yet,’ he led her out of the cave and she wasn’t sure that they had emerged at the same place at all.
Boats bobbed on the water, and the most astounding thing about it all was the complete silence.
The brands and fire in the cave behind lit the immediate area around her, but once they had walked back around past the flat stone and onto the beach itself the whole operation looked like it would be carried out in complete darkness bar the flickering of a fire far away on the hillside. She supposed that could be doused at a moment’s notice, leaving everyone in a frozen tableau of shadow, cloaked in night.
Hands were busy though, passing barrels up and back.
Lacrimosa was still unsure how it would play out, but then she never did, and she was still here to tell the tale. And one of the best at her game.
Her dalliance with Henry had been an unexpected bonus during this job. It had provided her with the chance to strip any remaining vestiges of humanity from her person, so terrified she had become of the closeness with another human being. And not one person would blame her if they knew the life she had led thus far.
Hardening her heart, she sneaked a look at his profile, and then took her thoughts and bundled them together in a tight package, imagining tearing them from her head and heart and casting them into the briny depths for the crabs to feed on.
He turned to her, and this time his smile didn’t melt her.
He cocked his head to the side, as if seeing something different within her.
He took her cold, small hand in his and didn’t say a thing.
Lacrimosa drew her eyes away from the scene, thankful once more for a second sense that came upon her after acquiring her place within the killing zone. She pulled the hood of her cloak up over her head and making sure that Henry’s attention was still on the men, slid the knife that was hidden within her tresses into her sleeve.
She looked back and saw the fire on the hills had been doused, a signal to the men below. And sure enough, a frantic whisper was spread through the men just as the hooves of many horses were heard coming through the gap that led to the beach.
He shrugged when he glanced back and saw the look on her face, ‘I never was one for a quiet life.’
Henry embraced her and ran off to join his men who had abandoned their posts and were quickly re-burying as many of the casks as they could.
Know that the time was here, she felt strangely disappointed. To be the creator of such chaos should have filled her with glee, but she really preferred one on one action.
Speaking of which, she really should find him, get it over and done with, and make her way into the sea and onto a boat.
Fighting her way through the darkness, with her skirts mostly, Lacrimosa was winded when another man ran into her, fleeing from shots that rang out over his head.
She saw a dark shape go down, from the size of it a horse rather than a man, and she felt sorry for she had known some really good horses in her lifetime and would trust one of them over a man – or woman – any day.
A dying whinny told her she was correct, and she struck out again, lifting her skirts up and tying them in a clumsy knot under her bustle. The going was slow, running in the churned up sand nearly impossible. She kept for the shoreline, sure that Henry would be down there in the thick of the fighting. Looking out to sea she saw both a rowboat that was empty and her quarry.
‘Henry!’ she stumbled up to him.
The fighting raged around them and she pulled him to the water’s edge towards the rowboat.
‘You must go, get away from here,’ he simultaneously pushed her into the boat where she stood on her feet, swaying, and kissed her cheek.
‘I must get back,’ he looked over his shoulder.
The hound ran and sat at his feet, growling at her.
Lacrimosa nearly lost her footing, but stood straight and pulling him to her, embraced Henry.
Half in and half out of the boat he looked down stupidly at his chest, and put his hand to it. When he took it away, it appeared black and his fuddled brain saw that his blood had been spilled.
He tried to get to his feet, but he was too dizzy. Tried to point a pistol at her, but his hand wavered too badly.
Lacrimosa pushed him off the boat with her boot and looked down on him as he lay in the shallow water, the hound licking his face to try to rouse him.
‘Why?’ he breathed.
O’Murtagh plucked the pistol from his hand, turned her back on him, and settled herself in the boat, taking up the oars.
‘You were truly terrible in bed, Henry,’ she shouted over her shoulder, the wind picking up her voice and delivering it to the dying man on the wet sand.
Katy O’Dowd is an arts and entertainment journalist and has worked for Time Out, Associated Newspapers and Comic Relief and her articles have appeared in The Times (London), Metro (London) and many other arts and entertainment publications, paper and online. You can find her here if you look hard enough.