Turncoat

Turncoat by Don Gutteridge Page B

Book: Turncoat by Don Gutteridge Read Free Book Online
Authors: Don Gutteridge
“is why anybody, peddler or freebooter, would bring tariffed spirits into a province where whisky itself is duty-free and there seem to be more local distilleries than gristmills. Grog’s a penny a cup at every wayside shebeen.”
    â€œA fair question,” Child said, nodding towards Hatch. “But these smugglers are ‘importing’ high-quality spirits and wines: rum from the West Indies, bourbon from the Carolinas, Bordeaux and Champagne from France, port from Iberia—and all of it, you can be sure, pirated or hijacked at some point along the way. They peddle it only around the garrison towns—Kingston, Toronto, London, Sandwich, Newark—to establishments that cater to a higher class of citizenry and that, in addition to cut-price vintage spirits, offer the further comfort of a warm bed and willing flesh.” The squire, long a widower, shook his head sorrowfully, as a man who has seen much folly and never quite accustomed himself to it.
    â€œBut that means tuns, barrels, packing cases,” Marc said.
    â€œOh, the peddlers don’t do the actual smuggling,” Hatch said. “They’re just petty advance men, order-takers, messengers, and the like. Peddling door to door is a perfect cover for the work. The county is crawling with them, summer and winter.”
    â€œErastus and I apprehended one of the blackguards a while back,” Child said. “What was his name now?”
    â€œIsaac Duffy,” Hatch said, and his face lit up with pleasure at the memory. “Caught him trying to sell a bottle of His Majesty’s finest sherry to Emma Durfee, an item he’d most likely pilfered from some smuggler’s drop he knew about.”
    â€œHe’s in irons down in Kingston,” Child said, “but before we shipped him off, he gave us a lead to two scoundrels in the area we’d long suspected of actually hauling the stuff across the lake on the ice.”
    â€œJefferson and Nathaniel Boyle,” Hatch said. “Brothers who operated two so-called farms out past Mad Annie’s swamp.”
    â€œHatch and I hopped on our horses and rode right out there like a pair of avenging angels.” Child laughed, and Marc did too, at the image of Magistrate Child’s two hundred and fifty pounds of pampered flesh astride and agallop.
    â€œWithout a sheriff or constables?” Marc asked above Hatch’s chortling.
    â€œI’d been after them Yankee cattle thieves for years,” Child said with sudden vehemence. “I had a pistol tucked in each side of my waistcoat, and Hatch here had his fowlingpiece. My God, I can still remember every moment of that ride.”
    â€œBy the time we got there,” Hatch said, “they’d already skedaddled, as they say in the Republic.”
    â€œThose sewer rats can smell authority a mile away.” The squire sighed. “I hate smugglers of every stripe. They undermine the fragile economy here, flout the King’s law, and offer incentives to others to do the same. And when they’re Yankees to boot, I detest them as much as I do a traitor or a turncoat.”
    â€œAll we found were two abandoned wives, just skin and bone, and a dozen half-starved youngsters,” Hatch said sadly.
    â€œWell, they haven’t been seen since,” Child said with some satisfaction.
    â€œAnd when I took Winnifred out there with some food and clothes at Christmas,” Hatch said, “the women and children had packed up and gone. The whole lot of ’em.”
    Marc had witnessed the effects of grinding poverty on the streets of London and never become inured to it, or to the callow disregard shown towards its victims by the prosperous and the morally blinkered. The thought of Winnifred’s charity warmed him in ways the brandy, cigars, and stimulating company had failed to.
    Philander Child wished Marc well in his efforts on Sir John’s behalf, complimented him on his good

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