“Mistress Ella, canst thee make this chariot stop?”
They hadn’t gotten more than five miles beyond the police cordon. What was he thinking?
“It’s too soon to stop. If you want to get away, we need a good distance between them and you.” Ella gunned the gas, not pleased that he had picked up on her name. And what was with the Mistress thing?
“Please. I fear I shall become unwell.”
Oh fuck, he was going to hurl. All she needed. Ella activated the air vents to blow cold air. There was no way she could pull over on a single lane highway with no hard shoulder. “Mordred, wind down your window. The lever with the round end.”
He did but put his head in his hands. This was so not good. There was no way she could drive with the stench of vomit in the car, and if she stopped, blocking traffic, she risked being charged with accessory after the fact, hostage or not. Would anyone believe her after her performance? Probably not.
“Please, Mistress Ella.”
“I can’t stop here. Sit up and take deep breaths. I’ll look for somewhere and stop as soon as I can. Just hold on.”
Mordred started heaving. Ella wildly looked ahead and spotted a gate to a field. She slowed, driving into the narrow entrance. He continued to heave but didn’t move. What was wrong with him? She flicked on the overhead light. His face was as white as milk and beads of sweat dripped off him. She reached over him to unlatch the door and pushed him partially out. The seatbelt held him from falling while he lost his supper with a vengeance. The rancid odor of vomit hit her like a wall, and she stuck her head out of her window to draw deep breaths. Finally, the spasms ceased. He eased back into the car.
“Is this likely to happen often?” Heaven help her if she had to plan ahead for each lay-by.
“Magical carts do upset my innards.” His head was down, and he shook.
“Look, I’m sure I packed some bottled water. It is in the trunk, and I need to go get it. I think if you sip that it might help.” When he didn’t object, she fetched the water, fortunately, placed in the top box of provisions. She unscrewed the lid and passed it to him when she got back in the car. “Take little sips and tell me when you think you can go on.”
What would have been the best fix would have been for him to walk a bit outside, but that wasn’t going to happen. He didn’t trust her not to leave him. After a while, he sighed and nodded. Ella reversed out of the gate entrance and put the pedal to the metal. Maybe, if she got a decent distance, he would agree to go his own way. He said he wanted a wild place. Fine, she would look out for a forest.
Mordred didn’t volunteer to leave, despite three more sick stops in the course of a very long night. Ella even pulled over when they reached the Devon moorland, hoping he would take the hint, but he didn’t. By the time they had pulled into Falmouth harbor, she was beginning to see imaginary things jumping out in front of her. Beyond exhausted as the silvery lights of new day emerged, she was in no mood to argue.
“Mordred, my boat is just ahead. I have fulfilled my side of the bargain. Take your bag, the documents, and the money and leave me be.”
He roused from a doze. “What sort of boat is it?”
“Fairy Child is a converted fishing boat. She is ocean going with sails and also an engine.
“Fairy Child is Ella in the Gaelic tongue.” Mordred sat up and stretched.
John had never picked up on her choice of name for her pride and joy. Why did it have to be a stranger? “You’re right. However, here is where we part company.” She tried to put all the authority she didn’t feel into that statement.
“Is the boat made of metal, or is it wooden?”
What did this matter? A boat was a boat. “She is wooden.”
“I be a coming along with you, then.”
Damn, and double damn. Why couldn’t she have just said metal? “You said I would be free. You promised I would when I got you clear of the police.”
“I did be saying that I would free thee when thee got me to the place where the wild things are. Thee has not done this.”
With her head spinning, Ella didn’t have the strength to argue any more. She had to get sleep before she passed out. “Fine, here are the car keys. You saw me open the trunk. I want everything in this car loaded onto that boat with the blue paint on the third jetty along. When you have done that, you can wake me up, and I will start her engines.”
She was too tired to care what he did now. Ella opened the car door and stumbled to the jetty. She weaved across the gangplank and somehow got down below to crash onto a berth.
“Mistress Ella.” A hard hand shook her awake. “I have done as thou commanded.”
Dear heavens would this never end? Maybe she could drop him off on the Sicily Isles? Ella fought layers of exhaustion to dig for the boat keys in her suitcase. Everything was neatly stacked in the cabin. He even handed her the car keys.
“Can I possibly hope that you can sail? If I get her out of harbor, can you head southwest with the sails?”
“No bad magic? Just wind power? Yes, this be possible.”
The first thing Ella did on reaching the deck was to hurl the car keys over the side. Spiteful and petty, but if Mordred had locked the car it would be an added charge to John’s account as it would not have the keys. She went to the wheel house, turned on the ignition and fired the engine. Gauges and the radar came online. She had a full tank of fuel, thankfully something she always had attended to whenever she docked after a trip.
“Mordred, can you go cast off the docking lines?”
He looked hard at her for a moment before running to do as she asked. The thought crossed her mind of throttling up and leaving him on the jetty, but she would have to back out, and he’d have time to jump aboard. If he didn’t and was captured, there was still her part in all this. She could face prison time for helping him. John would relish that. No, she would dump Mordred only when he was free and clear.
Mordred ran back up the gangplank and pulled it onboard after him. He started for the wheel house with a peculiar mincing gait that terminated with him sitting on the steps to pull off John’s rubber boots. These sailed over the side to join the car keys.
Ella suppressed a smile. Those boots must have been painful. She maneuvered Fairy Child out of the dock and into the open water. Once more, her hands shook, but this time with exhaustion. Ten minutes later and they hit ocean water. She powered down the engine to join Mordred on the deck. He was staring at the rigging, bemused.
“Right, you said you understood sails. Here is how these ones work.” Ten minutes later and he was as proficient as she could have wished and then some. Whatever else he was, the guy understood sails. He followed her back to the wheel house. “Look at this gauge. It tells you where the land masses are and our position.”
Mordred didn’t stir. “Thee said a southwest route. I don’t need the bad magic things to tell me how to find direction or land.”
“You can’t sail without the radar.”
“I have the sun and the stars to steer by. The smell of land and the sight of kelp, and the seabirds to tell me when I be near safe haven.”
Ella started to argue, but the room swirled to a violent buzzing in her ears. The next thing she knew was Mordred gently tucking her into a berth.
“Thee rest now.”
“No, I …” His grass green eyes seemed to expand, and somehow she was in a field of flowers, brightly colored flowers with lots of butterflies dipping down to drink the nectar. The real world receded into nothingness.
Ella woke to the gentle roll of the boat into a gray light. A faint noise from the other berth startled her. Mordred was curled up in covers, fast asleep. Panic sent her flying to the wheel house. All the sails were furled, the sea anchor had been let down and the boat was bobbing in the ocean, going nowhere. He must have sailed until exhaustion hit, and then made them safe. The goose bumps on her arms died down.
Silver slivers of predawn sliced through the sky. How long had she slept? A quick check on the instruments confirmed that the boat was on course. Ella exhaled. Her stomach told her it thought her head had been amputated. She went down to the galley, just in front of the sleeping quarters to rummage through the food boxes. Perishable food must be eaten first as there was no way of keeping it fresh on Fairy Child. She took an opened packet of bacon, sliced bread, tomatoes, and eggs. Halfway through cooking them Mordred blundered into the galley with a sleepy but hopeful expression on his face. The sounds his stomach made signaled his need.
He had ditched his cheek pads and his wig now the immediate threat had gone. Still he looked startlingly like John. She averted her eyes. “There are plates in the top cabinet over to your left. Can you snag a couple so I can get them warming?”
Ella sighed as she flipped the eggs. “Open the cupboard. Take out two plates. Give them to me.”
Mordred followed her orders, and she put the plates to warm underneath the hob.
“Do you prefer coffee or tea?”
Mordred gave her a blank look.
“I guess that will be coffee as we don’t have juice.” She began a brew. A few minutes later she set the tiny table and served breakfast. Mordred inhaled his in record time. He sipped at the coffee, pulling a face.
Ella finished her breakfast and picked up her coffee, satisfied, comfortable, and then her world crashed down upon her head. John was supposed to be sitting across from her. Why had he done this to her? Where had the love gone? The tears started and wouldn’t stop. She made a break for the deck, but Mordred was there, in her way.
“I be very sorry for the grief. I do know I have caused a rift between thee and thine husband. I do swear I will leave thee in peace as soon as I find my place.”
The tears wouldn’t stop. When she tried to push by him, he didn’t give an inch. She had to get away. “It is not you, it is him.” Those words choked out of her.
Mordred’s arms enfolded her. She howled into his chest, unable to stop. His hand gently stroked her hair as he rocked her.
“Whist now, what can I be a doing to make this right? I never meant to hurt thee.”
His kind words set off more tears. Ella struggled for control, aware she was in the arms of a psycho nut-bar. Oh God, could this get any worse?
Mordred steered her to her berth, pushed her down and sat himself beside her.
“It was him.” A sob threatened to close her throat. “You made things worse.” Tears rolled down her cheeks, and she rocked back and forth, her arms wrapped around her.
“I don’t make war on women. I make war on those who do. Where is he?” A note of steel had crept into his voice.