The River Runs Deep – Episode 27

Turning, she saw Paul Tyrell entering with Ethan Ridgeway and his sister, Darleen.

Caught up in their conversation, the young friends disappeared from the lobby into the Tyrell family’s private rooms.

“Good afternoon, Miss Adelaide.” Clara smiled, emerging from the kitchen with a laden tea tray. “How are you today?”

“Well, thank you. Though I’ll not be sorry to see the end of winter,” she replied, glancing over her shoulder to ensure they were alone.

“Clara, I need to ask about somebody you might have known at Longacre.”

“I’ve heard you and Mr Carmichael look for lost folks,” the younger woman murmured. “I’ll help if I can.”

Adelaide explained about Felix Ridgeway’s search for his older brother.

“After Felix was sold, do you know what happened to Victor?”

“It was a long time ago. I was only young.” Clara shook her head. “I knew both brothers, and I recall Felix got sold when he was still a boy.

“It was years later Victor went. I’m not sure if he was sold, or if Master swapped him for something.

“If anybody knows, it’d be Timothy. Him and Victor were close.”

“Timothy?” Adelaide echoed. “I don’t know him. Is he here in Deep River?”

“Sure is. Master sold him on to Captain Leasowe, and even now he’s free, old Tim still works down at the riverfront . . .”

She broke off at approaching footsteps and raised cheerful voices.

“I’d best go,” Clara whispered, turning towards the kitchen.

She glanced behind, meeting Adelaide’s eyes.

“Good luck finding Victor, ma’am.”

Adelaide listened to Paul Tyrell and the Ridgeway youngsters passing through the lobby to the street.

The hotel fell silent, and with a thoughtful sigh Adelaide poured her tea.

Later, Adelaide was about to close the mercantile when William arrived.

“I got your message,” he announced, adding wryly, “Whatever are you mixed up with now?”

“There’s a pot of fresh coffee in the parlour. Hal and Mr Watts are waiting,” Adelaide replied, locking up. “We want you to do a little detective work.”

Although William knew Timothy by sight, it was two days before he had a chance to ask him about Victor Ridgeway.

They were hauling sacks of flour, beans and coffee, and a mess of sundry supplies from one of Leasowe’s waterfront warehouses, then loading them on to wagons.

Making sure nobody was close enough to overhear, William explained that Felix Ridgeway was searching for his brother.

Rolling another barrel towards the wagon, Timothy shot a keen glance at William.

“You kin to William Robertson?”

“He was my grandfather. Did you know him?”

“I knew him for a long time. He was a good man.” Timothy paused.

“You favour your grandpa, you know. In more’n looks, I reckon.”

William let that pass.

“Do you know what happened to Victor?”

“We was all owned by Royston Ridgeway over at Longacre.

“Me and Victor grew up together. Always watched out for each other,” Timothy related.

“One day a trader up from Kentucky came by, looking for hands,” he went on.

“Guess he offered a good price, ’cause Master sold Victor straight off.”

William frowned. A trader! That complicated the search considerably.

There was no knowing if he’d been buying slaves for a plantation owner, or taking them for auction.

“Never saw Victor again,” Timothy added.

“Years later, I heard tell he’d run off to join the Blue Coats and fight for Mr Lincoln.”

“Victor was in the Union Army? That’s the first lead we’ve got,” William whispered, mindful of Leasowe’s overseer approaching. “Thanks for your help, Timothy.”

The two men bent to their labour and spoke of Victor Ridgeway no more.

To be continued…

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