This is an excerpt from Book Nine in my OUTLANDER series of major novels, which I am working on now. I originally posted this as one of my Daily Lines on my Facebook page on November 15, 2015. Note that this excerpt may contain SPOILERS…
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William had been half-hoping that his inquiries for Lord John Grey would meet either with total ignorance, or with the news that his lordship had returned to England. No such luck, though. Sir Archibald Campbell’s clerk had been able to direct him at once to a house in Garden Street, and it was with thumping heart and a ball of lead in his stomach that he came down the steps of Campbell’s headquarters to meet Cinnamon, waiting in the street.
His anxiety was dispersed the next instant, though, as Sir Archibald himself came up the walk, two aides beside him. William’s impulse was to put his hat on, pull it over his face and scuttle past in hopes of being unrecognized. His pride, already raw, was having none of this, and instead, he marched straight down the walk, head high, and nodded regally to Sir Archibald as he passed.
"Good day to you, sir," he said. Campbell, who had been saying something to one of the aides, looked up absently, then halted abruptly, stiffening.
"What the devil are you doing here?" he said, broad face darkening like a seared chop.
"My business, sir, is none of your concern," William said politely, and made to pass.
"Coward," Campbell said contemptuously behind him. "Coward and whore-monger. Get out of my sight before I have you arrested."
William’s logical mind was telling him that it was Campbell’s relations with Uncle Hal that lay behind this insult and he ought not to take it personally. He must walk straight on as though he hadn’t heard.
He turned, gravel grinding under his heel, and only the fact that the expression on his face made Sir Archibald go white and leap backward allowed John Cinnamon time to take three huge strides and grab William’s arms from behind.
"[Come on, you idiot — French]," he hissed in William’s ear. "Vite!" Cinnamon outweighed William by forty pounds, and he got his way—though in fact, William didn’t fight him. He didn’t turn round, though, but backed—under Cinnamon’s compulsion—slowly toward the gate, burning eyes fixed on Campbell’s mottled countenance.
"What’s wrong with you, gonze?" Cinnamon inquired, once they were safely out the gate and out of sight of the clapboard mansion. The simple curiosity in his voice calmed William a little, and he wiped a hand hard down his face before replying.
"Sorry," he said, and drew breath. "That—he—that man is responsible for the death of a—a young lady. That I knew."
"Merde," Cinnamon said, turning to glare back at the house. "Jane?"
"Wh—how—where did you get that name?" William demanded. The lead in his belly had caught fire and melted, leaving a seared hollow behind. He could still see her hands, long-fingered and white, as he’d laid them on her breast—crossed, the torn wrists neatly bound in black.
"You say it in your sleep sometimes," Cinnamon said with an apologetic shrug.