The Girl from the Sea – Chapter Eighteen
The Captain and Pete waited on the harbour front for the brothers. They weren’t far behind them.
“You know where Frankie is? You’ve seen her? Is she alright?” They both garbled together.
“Shhh,” the older men hissed, looking around them. “Come with me quickly,” said the Captain. “Pete, stay here and make sure nobody’s following us. You know what to do.” Pete nodded darkly and made himself disappear into the shadows. The Captain set off at a brisk pace up the path to his cottage. The younger boys followed blindly, wondering how the older man was coping with the steep incline better than they were. “Can you tell us anything, Sir?” Lucas puffed.
“It’s probably better if Frankie tells you herself. All you need to know from me is that I found her in a terrible state on the beach and brought her home. She’s been through the mill.” Not even out of breath at all.
“But who might be following us? What danger is there? She just ran away from home. I don’t understand,” continued Anthony.
“Not sure. Let’s just say that you’re not the only ones who have been looking for Frankie.”
The rest of the walk carried on in silence and darkness, now that they were away from the village. The only light was on in the Captain’s cottage. Esther must be still up. He felt warmth stir his heart at the thought of her being there. The brothers were each in their own worlds turning over what might have happened in their minds. Their search for their sister was coming to an end, but there was obviously much more to this than her running away from home.
They approached the stone house and the Captain pushed the door open on the homely scene of Esther sitting in her rocking chair by the fire, with a cup of tea, staring into the flames. She was always like that when she had things on her mind. She said she could lose herself in the flames and things just came to her. The Captain gestured to the boys to wait outside while he explained.
“Esther, is Frankie asleep?”
“Yes love. A while back. Why?”
“Her family’s here – two brothers at least. They’ve been looking for her.”
“Her family?” Esther’s face fell a little at the thought of losing the little girl. She had enjoyed being a mother again. She recovered herself quickly. Frances had her own mother who missed her too. “Why that’s marvellous. Where are they?”
“Boys, come in. This is my wife, Esther, and I’m Emos. What are your names?”
“Anthony and Lucas, sir. Please tell us what’s going on? Is Frankie here?”
“She’s upstairs, asleep,” said Esther.
“No she isn’t.” Frankie appeared in the doorway. “I heard voices.” She threw herself at Anthony and Lucas. “What are you doing here? Oh I’m glad though! So glad to see you.”
“What are we doing here, Frank?” queried Lucas. “What are you doing here? Do you know what kind of trouble you’re in with Ma – ready to kill you she is!” He saw her eyes fill with tears and she bit her lip to stop them overflowing. He realised that now was not the time. “It’s good to see you too, Fishface,” he said hugging her tight.
Anthony drew them apart, and turned to the Captain and his wife. “Thank you for looking after her. We’re amazingly grateful to you. You told us you found her on the beach in some kind of state?” He could see the bruises covering her face and the bandages on her hands. “What has happened to you Frank?”
The tears welled up again. Anthony knew that she was not prone to crying as other girls were. “Come on, Frank. It can’t be that bad?”
“Anthony, they killed him!” she whispered. “They killed him and threw him over the side!” She threw herself against her older brother and dissolved in to hysterical sobs.
“Killed who?” He asked gently. When he wasn’t able to get any sane response he looked at the Captain and his wife and repeated. “Who’s been killed? Is this one of Frank’s stories?”
Emos and Esther exchanged glances. The Captain spoke up. “We’re not sure who. But there’s been a body wash up – a man, badly beaten and stabbed through the chest. He appeared a day or two after your sister. It seems to hold up to her story.”
“He’s the man I saw on the boat,” sobbed Frankie. “I know it. They shut me in a cabin with him and he was dead! I fainted when I saw him and when I woke up, he was gone!”
“Wait, who shut you up in cabin?”
“The man with the scars on his face!”
“This man…” interrupted the Captain slowly, “…has been in town too, asking questions. He’s looking for a young boy though. When I found Frances she was wearing boys’ clothes.”
“Sounds like our Frank alright.”
“We’ve got to get her out of here, before he realises that she’s not a boy.”
“We have our boat moored on the quayside. We’ll take her home with us, first thing.”
“Son, he’s still going to be looking for her at home. You said yourselves that you were searching every village along the coast for Frances. What’s to stop him doing the same?”
“But he doesn’t know that he is a she. Surely that’s to our advantage.”
“Maybe,” pondered the Captain.
“What should we do then?”
“I think we need to stop him, that’s what.”
“And how exactly do you plan to do that?” whispered a threatening voice from the doorway.
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