The River Runs Deep – Episode 38

As soon as she saw him, she waved him down.

“How is Laura?” Adelaide enquired. “I heard about the accident in Snake Pass. Such a shock for her, seeing that poor man.”

“Laura’s all right. She’s gone home,” he replied, adding, “Is there anybody in Deep River who hasn’t heard about the accident?”

“You can’t expect news not to get around,” Adelaide returned briskly.

“We don’t know who the dead man is, Adelaide,” William told her. “He was a stranger to town. If you hear anything about him, will you tell me?”

“Of course,” she responded, leading the way through the store.

“I received a letter from Edgar Watts,” she went on.

Adelaide and her fellow conductors on the old Underground Railroad, Hal and Edgar, had been quietly trying to reunite ex-slaves who were now free.

“He’s discovered Victor Ridgeway was killed a week before the war ended. Hal will be writing to inform his brother.”

“It’s a sad end to Felix’s search,” William murmured, unfolding Edgar’s letter. “I’ll let Timothy know. He and Victor grew up together.”

“It was Timothy telling you that Victor fought for the Union that led Edgar to examine Army records,” Adelaide remarked. “Quite by chance, he unearthed a reference to Stephen.”

William glanced up from the first page of Edgar’s neat script at the name.

“Miss Myrtle’s Stephen?”

Adelaide nodded.

“It appears Stephen also joined the Union Army.”

Thoughts of Victor, his brother and of Miss Myrtle’s husband dwelled with William after he left.

He understood how it was not to know and to constantly wonder. To always keep hoping.

Passing by the Delderfield place, he headed through woodland to the old kirkstones where, on the day he returned to Deep River, he’d buried a saddlebag.

After the murder in Snake Pass, William wanted it close to hand.

Back at Pipers Creek, he headed straight to his room and stowed the heavy saddlebag safely out of sight.

He met Shona coming round from the kitchen garden.

“How was Laura?” William asked.

“She didn’t say much. Just got ready and went to the Hawthorns.

“What about you?” Shona asked. “How are you doing?”

“I’m all right.” He smiled. “Don’t worry about me.”

“How can I not?” Shona replied, patting his hand as though he were eight years old. “Have you time to eat before you go to work?”

He shook his head, already striding away.

“If I don’t go now, I’ll have my wages docked.”

The first chance William got, he sought out Timothy and broke the news about Victor Ridgeway.

“I’m real sorry. I know you were close.”

“We were. Long ago,” the elderly man said. “When Mr Carmichael writes to his brother, will you ask if he’ll remember me to Felix?

“I want to send my respects.”

“I’ll do it gladly.” William paused, taking the sketch from his pocket. “I’m not much of an artist, but have you seen this man here?”

“You’re right, you ain’t much of an artist,” Timothy observed. “But if this is meant to be Mr Brunning, yeah, I seen him.

“He came through for supplies. Drunk as a skunk and waving dollar bills –”

“Back up!” William exclaimed. “You know him?”

“Never set eyes on him till yesterday, but he tipped me, so I won’t forget Mr Brunning in a hurry!

“Some men get mean when they’re drunk, but Mr Brunning is the sort who’s mellow and likes talking over the good old days.”

“Mr Brunning,” William repeated, the name somehow ringing a distant bell. “What was he saying?”

“Plenty!” Timothy laughed. “Mr Brunning talked about when him and his pal Ossie were young bucks down Carolina way and made a fortune during the gold rush.

“He went to California and lived the high life. Lately, he’s been down on his luck, so he came to Deep River looking for Ossie . . .”

Timothy considered William curiously.

“How come you’re so interested in Mr Brunning?”

“He died in an accident last night. We’d no name to bury him with.”

“That’s terrible. May he rest in peace.

“Say, I wonder if this Ossie, whoever he is, knows about his friend’s passing?”

“That’s a good question, Timothy,” William remarked, putting the sketch into his pocket and heading back to work.

To be continued…

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