The Mystery Of Macgregor’s Cove – Episode 35

Cast of characters dressed in 18th Century clothing stand in front of white cottage

The Redcoats were taking their leave of Sandy and Iain when Amaryllis and Kit turned from the lane, and the Bell’s cobbled yard came into their sight. 

“I don’t believe I’ve seen soldiers at the inn before,” Kit remarked, watching as final words were exchanged before the Macgregor brothers resumed working on the stable door. “Or in St Agnes, come to that.” 

“I don’t think I’ve seen any myself,” Amaryllis agreed, glancing over her shoulder to ensure Betsy and her dog were not too far behind. “Then again, the garrison is miles away over at Castlebridge.” 

“It’s within the castle itself, isn’t it? Along with the gaol and courts of law?” he queried. “I’ve been to the town a few times with Penny. I haven’t seen the Roman ruins, but the castle is magnificent.” 

“I’ve never been to Castlebridge.” Amaryllis sighed, her face colouring. “Simon’s promised to take me soon. He goes often, and says it’s an elegant town with excellent theatres, hotels, a concert hall and an art gallery . . .” 

They’d started into the yard and she broke off, beckoning Betsy to hurry before smiling at Kit. 

“Are you coming up to the inn-house for tea?” 

“No, thanks.” He returned her smile, indicating the stable door lying flat on the cobbles. “I’ll see if I can do anything useful out here.” 

Crossing the yard to where Sandy was on his knees beside the door, Kit took off his coat and hung it over the water pump. 

“The old hinge couldn’t be fixed, then?” 

“Had to have a new one made.” Sandy glanced around from tightening the screws securing a hinge to the timber. “There’s some weight to this door, even with the three of us we’ll have a job hanging it.” 

“Did you see the Redcoats, Kit?” Iain called, emerging from the tool shed carrying a ladder. “They were asking after the smugglers running cargo up the coast.” 

“Aye, and more’s the pity,” Sandy chipped in, straightening up. “It’s plain they’ve no intelligence who the men are, nor who’s giving the orders.” 

“Those on the beach bringing the goods ashore are only hired hands,” Iain said, warming to the subject. “It’s someone high up who organises it. Even the runners themselves won’t know who he is.” 

“Hark at your uncle.” Sandy looked at Kit, but cocked his head in Iain’s direction. “The authority on free traders and their paymasters.” 

“I’m right, though,” Iain argued, propping the ladder against the stable wall. “You think back to when we were lads, Sandy, when smuggling was not only rife up-coast, but right here in this cove. 

“This was before Elias Whitlock was magistrate,” he put in. “Nowt was proven, but Dad said the magistrate, many a local squire and other gentry turned a blind eye to smuggling because that’s where they got their tea, brandy, baccy and the rest, without having to pay duty.” 

“Aye, that’s true,” Sandy agreed soberly. “There were plenty of honest folk who got threatened into keeping quiet. They lived in fear of what’d happen to them and their families if they spoke out. 

“It took Elias Whitlock to rid this coast of smuggling – and I reckon now he’s laid up, somebody’s seen their chance and started it up again.” 

“Penny’s told me what she remembers about those early years when her father became magistrate,” Kit remarked. “She recalls them as being frightening times.” 

“So they were, for the whole Whitlock family!” Sandy exclaimed. “There were powerful folk along this coast, and around the county, who were profiting one way or another from contraband, and they were set against Whitlock’s efforts to stamp it out. 

“His life was threatened and his home attacked by night, but Elias stood fast and wouldn’t give up.” 

“He had dangerous enemies with long arms.” Iain nodded. “Even them as had no truck with smuggling were afraid to stand with him. Until the wrecking at Gibbet Point . . .” 

“Great-aunt Mathilda told me about the Jupiter,” Kit murmured grimly. 

Scores of men had been murdered when the merchantman Jupiter, bound for Liverpool carrying a cargo of luxury goods, was lured to her destruction by a wreckers’ light high on Gibbet Point. 

The young Macgregor brothers and their father had been first down on the beach, putting out boats and ropes to haul drowning men from the churning black water and clear of the treacherous rocks. 

“I pray I never see another night like it,” Iain mumbled. 

“Amen to that.” 

The three men fell silent, and set to the troublesome task of hanging the stable’s door. 

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.