I awoke when Jamie took his turn at watch, and didn’t fall fully back asleep again. When the sky had just begun to light, Jamie roused Murtagh and I both and we were up and back on the horses within the hour.
“Ye alright, Sassenach?” Jamie asked me as I leaned heavily against him.
“I’ll be fine once we have Fergus,” I said. “Though I’d kill for some coffee right about now.”
Jamie chuckled. “Sorry, lass, there willn’a be any Starbucks along th’ way.”
“ What ?” Murtagh asked impatiently.
“Never mind,” Jamie said.
We were quiet for most of the ride, stopping only when we needed to, nibbling at the remains of Murtagh and Jamie’s provisions. I noticed that Jamie had set aside a healthy portion of the dried meat, and I knew without needing to ask that it was for Fergus.
Fort William was more or less what I assumed a fort would look like in the 18th century. I’d been to such places before, on trips with my uncle, or even school field trips. But those places had been crumbling ruins turned into tourist attractions, not a working prison like this. It was settled at the end of a small peninsula, the ocean around it swirling and angry with threatening storm clouds. Honestly, it looked the prime spot for a good horror film.
“This is far enough,” Murtagh said. “Send th’ lass on from here.”
I slid off of Donas, and Jamie followed, grabbing my arm.
“I dinna think this is a good idea…” he said.
“It’s already been decided,” I said, hoping I sounded more certain than I felt. “I’ll be fine . You just have to trust me.”
Jamie’s eyes flicked to mine, as tumulus as the stormy sky. “I trust you, Sassenach. Implicitly. It’s th’ men in there I dinna trust.”
“Good thing I don’t trust them either,” I said, giving him a teasing salute with my free hand.
“One hour,” he said firmly. “If you are not back here in one hour, I am going in.”
“One hour,” I repeated, reaching into my pocket. “I’ll set a timer and everything.”
Jamie’s eyes widened at the sight of my phone. “Ye...ye have that? Christ, Claire, ye canna take your cell phone in there!”
He reached to take it, but I pulled it out of reach. “I can take pictures of where Fergus is, providing no one is looking. Relax, I learned in high school how to use one of these without anyone noticing.”
“Do I want to know what that is?” Murtagh said.
“Oh aye,” Jamie said. “Ye’ll be fascinated, but later. Go on, Sassenach. Hurry, before it gets dark.”
“Take Paulie,” Murtagh said, handing his horse’s reign to me. “In case ye need a quicker getaway.”
Not overly liking being the one in the driver’s seat, so-to-speak, I mounted Murtagh’s horse and urged her toward the fort. Thankfully, she was much more agreeable than Donas.
On the ride toward the fort, I went over in my head the things to say, and more important, the way I should act.
I knew enough about the 18th century to know that women were meant to be submissive. That went against exactly every nature I had, but I would kiss their fucking boots if it meant getting Fergus back safely. But I also needed to watch my way of speech. So far I’d only heard Scottish accents, and they were somewhat different than the Scottish accents I knew in my time. I hoped to let the men in the prison speak a bit so that I could mimic them.
There was a huge oak door, with a guard already waiting for me outside it, no doubt having seen my approach.
“What business have you here, Mistress?” he asked skeptically.
“I...I’ve reason to believe my son is here,” I called out. “Please, he’s only a boy, I...I wish to see him.”
The guard gave me a long look, then motioned me to dismount. I left Paulie tied loosely outside, then followed the man through the heavy door and through a courtyard of sorts.
He took me into the prison building, and straight to what appeared to be some sort of office before abruptly telling me to wait and then disappearing.
I quickly pulled out my phone and took a few hasty photos of the desk which was littered with papers, but did not dare rifle through it for anything of use, not knowing how long I would be alone. In the process, I checked the time. It had already been twenty minutes since I’d walked away from Jamie, meaning I had forty more before he came charging in and likely getting himself killed.
The minutes that I waited ticked by agonizingly slowly, until finally the door opened again, admitting a short, portly man with one of those ridiculous powdered wigs.
I actually had to bite back a smile, because the thing was even uglier than movies portrayed it, and looked positively filthy.
“A Mrs...Beauchamp?” he said in a lilting accent that, to be perfectly honest, sounded a little closer to what Southern Americans sounded like than modern English people. “I’m the governor of this prison, Lord Thomas. I’m told you’re looking for your son? Well, I’m terribly afraid we cannot allow visitations…”
“My son is only twelve years old,” I broke in, not bothering to alter my accent and hoping he just assumed I was from a different region. “We became separated on our way to Inverness. You see, my husband...he...he was a teacher in Oxfordshire, you see. He passed, and we were on our way to seek out some distant relatives that might provide assistance.”
It was a weak story, one I’d concocted on the ride between Jamie and the prison, but vague enough to be believable. In my recitation, I allowed my eyes to well with the tears I’d been fighting ever since losing Fergus, and was gratified to see him soften at the sight.
“We did bring in a boy of that age,” he said sympathetically. “He was apparently locked into an altercation with a captain of Dragoons, and is being questioned as we speak.”
I swallowed the bile rising in my throat. Captain of Dragoons...wasn’t that what Murtagh had called Randall? “Please...might I just see him? If only to know he’s well? Please, Lord Thomas...he’s all I have left in the world.”
Lord Thomas hesitated a long moment before finally nodding his pudgy head. “Very well, Mrs. Beauchamp. Normally I would not allow such a thing, but considering the circumstances and the boy’s age...now, keep in mind, I won’t be able to release him to you at this time. An investigation will still need to be performed, but you have it on my own word that the boy will be kept apart from the other prisoners. A savage lot, they are.”
“You have my thanks, sir,” I said with more sincerity than I felt, though my heart sank that they would not be simply giving Fergus to me and erasing the need for a dangerous rescue.
True to my word, I committed every turn, every door, every damned stone in the wall to memory by obsessively repeating the counts in my head so that I would be able to repeat them to Jamie.
It was a long walk from the governor’s office to the room where Fergus was being kept, and an excessive number of stairs that with the added weight of my skirts had me gasping in no time.
Lord Thomas knocked once, then opened a creepy-looking oak and metal door to another office of sorts, and there, sitting by the fireplace, was Fergus.
“Mom!” he exclaimed, half-rising from his seat before a hand stalled him, pushing him roughly back down down.
Only then did I take note of the other person in the room, the man that could have very well have been Frank’s long-lost twin brother.
“The boy’s mother has arrived,” Lord Thomas said, and my heart sank at the way the man...who to my mind should have been Randall’s superior, cowered before him. “I told her she could only see him, to see that he is well.”
“Very well,” Randall said, and I couldn’t help but flinch. He even sounded like Frank.
He seemed to notice my flinch, because his eyes narrowed on me. “I was just finishing up my interview,” Randall said. “I see no reason Mrs...Beauchamp, is it? Couldn’t have a few moments with her son. You may leave her here, Lord Thomas, I will see her out.”
My eyes flew wildly to Lord Thomas, silently pleading with him to stay, but the older man sputtered a few comments of “very well” and was gone, the door latching shut behind him with an ominous clang .
“Are you alright?” I asked Fergus, forcing my voice to sound courteous, with just the right amount of maternal concern instead of outright panic.
Fergus looked from me, to Randall, and back again, the fear in his eyes cutting through me like a knife. “I’m fine,” he said.
“It’s interesting,” Randall said, walking over to his desk. I took the opportunity to move closer to Fergus, putting myself between them. Fergus didn’t look hurt in any way, but his rigid posture and hands clenched so tightly to keep from shaking was all I needed to see to know that my son was positively petrified of this man, for both of our sakes.
“Your son doesn’t have the same accent as you,” Randall continued loftily. Conversationally. “Both of which are quite unusual, I might add.”
“His father was Am…” I caught myself. America isn’t America yet, you idiot! “...from the colonies. I’m afraid he picked up his father’s dialect.”
But Randall caught my slip, judging by the narrowing of his eerily familiar brown eyes. It struck me that I had no idea what Fergus had already told him, what lies or what truths, and I could unwittingly doom us both by saying the wrong things. Hell, no one had even been able to explain to Fergus that we were in the 18th century! I was sure he’d been able to more or less figure that much out on his own, but either way, the kid had to be painfully confused, as well as frightened.
How long had it been? I didn’t dare check my phone, not even discreetly, but there was a single window in the room that showed me that it had gone dark, which probably meant my hour was nearly up. I didn’t doubt that Jamie would be prompt in his promise to come after us, but what I did doubt was his ability to reach us without bringing dozens of guards down upon him.
“Your son is an interesting young man,” Randall said. “He has said some...interesting things.”
I chuckled. “Well, you know how children are, I’m sure. Wild imaginations, they. The truth is…” I glanced back at Fergus, shooting him an apologetic look. “The truth is, Captain, my son is…” I struggled for a period-appropriate term. “...a bit simple-minded. I’m afraid he often doesn’t know what he’s about.”
Randall chuckled. “Strange, he seemed to know very well what he was about when he called me a...what was, boy? ‘Freak?’”
Fergus glared loathfully at the man. “If the shoe fits…” he muttered.
“Fergus,” I hissed in reprimand. “I apologize for my son, sir. His mouth runs away with him at times.”
“It is quite alright, I’m quite fascinated with his mouth,” Randall said in a way that made my skin crawl. “Particularly the things it has said. Things about wars that seemingly have never happened, times that have yet to come...and most interestingly, a name I have not heard in quite some time. Jamie Fraser. Now how, might I ask, Mrs. Beauchamp, would your son come to know the name of a dead Scottish outlaw?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “An old broadsheet?”
Randall smiled, and the creepy part was that it was a pleasant smile, much like Frank’s when we’d first start dating and I’d been enamored. “You’re even lovelier in person,” he said. “You... portrait …doesn’t quite do you justice.”
“Portrait?” I asked, looking back at Fergus only to find his eyes wide and wild as they looked back at me.
Randall moved a few sheets of paper around his desk before picking up a small black object that illuminated the moment it was raised. A selfie of Fergus and myself graced the lock screen of Jamie’s/Fergus’s phone, as well as the time. One hour, seventeen minutes.
“Care to explain this...marvelous little invention?” Randall asked.
“I’d love to,” I said, tilting my head up. “I’ll tell you all about it, and show you more about it as well... if you release my son.”
“Sassenach!” Fergus exclaimed in protest.
“Shut it,” I hissed. “And do as you’re told.”
“Fascinating,” Randall said, setting the phone down and coming closer.
“Fergus, leave now,” I said, taking a step back.
“No!” he cried. “This guy is crazy !”
“No one is going anywhere,” Randall said, his voice losing its cordiality and deepening menacingly. “I would like answers, about who you both are, and where you are from. And I will be getting them...one way or another.”
He reached for me, but Fergus was suddenly between us, shoving him away. “Leave her alone!”
Randall backhanded Fergus before I could react, sending him flying to the floor. In the same breath, he wrapped a hand around my throat, slamming me back against the wall.
“I have been on my best behavior up until now,” he breathed in my face, and I was revolted to feel his erection pressing incessantly against my thigh. I was sent violently back to that last day I saw Frank, when Jamie saved me from rape. I whimpered.
With a roar and strength I’d never believed him capable of, Fergus got ahold of Randall’s shirt and wrenched him back. His grip on me meant that I went too, and we fell to the floor in a pile of scrambling limbs. I managed to knee him in the groin before getting free, but he was on his feet faster than I, shoving me away and grabbing Fergus instead, pulling him against his chest, facing away.
“Do you want to be first, little one?” Randall said in Fergus’s ear. “I meant to save you for later, but if you’re that eager…”
“Let him go!” I screamed.
“Scream all you wish,” Randall laughed. “No one is coming, Mrs. Beauchamp.”
I didn’t scream...but Fergus did.
I’d only seen it once, a small taste of it really, that night Fergus had had a night terror early on in my fostering of him. But Jamie had told me of other times, of meltdowns that had left the adults in Fergus’s life positively terrified of him.
It was completely outside of Fergus’s control. Born of a tumultuous upbringing, PTSD, and very possibly a genetic chemical imbalance, all of which came together to create a storm within Fergus’s mind that had no choice but to come out in a state of fury that he would later have absolutely no recollection of.
I watched as Fergus’s body went limp in Randall’s arms, much like a tantruming toddler, and Randall released him in surprise, then tried again to restrain him, only to be warded off with wildly swinging fists. Fergus turned, and still screaming, shoved violently at Randall, sending him flying back into his desk, overturning it and sending papers and various other items flying.
Right in that moment, the sole windowpane flew open, and there was Jamie perched on the sill, watching with wide eyes.
“Jamie!” I exclaimed in utter relief, but he only glanced once at me to ascertain my wellbeing before turning his attention to Fergus, who was still just standing there, screaming.
“Lad,” he said calmly, soothingly. “It’s me, Fergus. It’s Jamie. Hush now, a mhic mo ghràidh, you’re safe.”
It took some time, and continued soothing words from Jamie, but eventually Fergus’s screaming petered off, and he just stood there, dazed and shaking. Jamie went to him, picking him up like a small child, no matter that his legs dangled almost to the floor, and Fergus merely rested his head against Jamie’s shoulder and closed his eyes.
I had glanced several times at the door, waiting for someone to come in to investigate the screaming, but no one had. Jamie caught one of those looks, and gave me a look that told me all I needed to know about why no one had come.
“Come, Sassenach,” he said. “We best hurry.”
I nodded, but ran around the desk to look at Randall. He was likely in need of medical assistance, but not even my oath could have made me want to be the one to administer it.
I needn’t have worried though, because during the fall, Randall had somehow impaled himself on his own letter opener, the sharpened blade jutting out of one eye socket while the other eye stared blankly up at me.
“Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ…” I whispered.
Jamie stared down dispassionately at the dead man a long beat before shifting Fergus in order to take my hand. “Come. Th’ lad willn’a remember this when he awakens, and I’ve no intention of reminding him of it.”
I nodded in agreement, bending to pick up his phone where it had landed among the papers. “Where’s Murtagh?”
“Waiting outside wi’ th’ horses,” Jamie said, opening the door and checking the corridor. “He called Paulie back then started a fire in th’ woods on the western side tae draw the guards’ attention away, but we still…”
“Halt, right there!”
We both jumped, our way out of the hall blocked by several guards. Jamie hastily passed Fergus to me, but I struggled to hold the boy who was almost as big as myself and had to lower him to the ground.
There were too many men for Jamie to take on his own, and getting a crazy idea, I pulled out my own phone, opening an app I had downloaded on a night out once with Geillis, and she’d insisted that a single woman such as myself should have it.
The app lit my flashlight to a blinding strobe light and emitted a piercing shriek, intended to be a deterrent to 21st century attackers.
For 18th century prison guards, it was absolute sorcery and they went scrambling back, screaming in terror.
Jamie picked Fergus back up, snatched my hand, and led me out of the corridor and onto a roof, and then, a wall.
“You’re not serious!” I cried, peering down at the black, swirling water below.
More soldiers were thundering up the stairs, and Jamie arched a brow. “Got a better idea, Thelma?”
I let him pull me up onto the ledge. “If you’re Louise, who does that make Fergus?”
“Th’ car,” Jamie said, before we leapt into the freezing ocean below.