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22 October 2014

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The body of Jim Mews slides off the edge of the plank and splashes into the water below.

'Once aboard the Annabelle, that's the only way you'll get off her,' warns Captain Trask. 'Straight downwards!'

Ben, Jamie and the Laird watch with trepidation as the body rapidly sinks beneath the surface.

A pathetic band of prisoners are shackled to the walls of the cramped hold.

A trap door opens at the top of the steep flight of wooden stairs and a shaft of light illuminates the gloom. 'What have you got down here, stinking fish?' asks Ben. 'That's exactly what it is,' replies Trask. 'Stinking fish.'

'I'm not going,' says an indignant Jamie. 'Yes you are, you scurvy swab,' says Trask. 'Another word out of you and I'll be down here with my cutlass. You'll learn who's master here.'

Trask shuts the hatch and the other prisoners grudgingly make space for the new arrivals. The Laird tells Jamie he is feeling slightly better now his fever is going. 'It'll be no better for being cooped up in this hell hole,' says Jamie.

Ben turns to a prisoner called Willy and asks him, 'Hey mate, got any idea where they're sending us?'

Willy shrinks away from Ben in disgust. 'This man's an Englishman,' he sneers. 'One more blow we can strike for Scotland. One more piece of vermin to be stamped out.' A group of angry Highlanders surround Ben.

'Will MacKay would never strike a friend of the Prince,' calls out the Laird. Will recognises the voice. 'Man it's yourself,' he exclaims. 'Colin McLaren!'

'And Jamie,' adds the Laird. 'Son of Donald McCrimmon, a piper, like his father and his father's father.'
'With no pipes though,' smiles Jamie. 'Just my chanter.'

'I crave your pardon,' Willy tells Ben. 'A friend of the McLarens is a friend of mine.' Willy goes on to explain that he is a sailor, and that Trask was once his mate. 'I was running arms from France past the blockade. Trask betrayed me! The Navy boarded the Annabelle and now he's sailing the ship for King George.'

Ben is not convinced that Trask is working for the King. 'We're not exactly being treated like prisoners of war, now are we? Look, mate, he is going to sell us like the stinking fish he thinks we are. Slave labour, that's what we're going to be, slave labour!'

Polly hides in a barn on the outskirts of Inverness, waiting for Kirsty to return.

She hears a noise outside and gingerly moves to the door. A man leads a donkey along the path outside and soon moves on.

Polly practises throwing Kirsty's dirk, but fumbles with the handle and drops it.

Kirsty returns with clothes, trays and oranges. 'What did we have to spend our money on oranges for?' asks Kirsty. 'You'll see,' says Polly, slipping a long dress over her own clothes. 'Last time we went back to the past I had to wear boys' clothes all the time.' Kirsty looks baffled.

Kirsty and Polly are now wearing almost identical dresses.
'Right,' says Polly, grabbing the trays. 'We're going to be orange sellers.'

The Doctor arrives at an inn, still dressed as an old woman.

Lieutenant Ffinch takes a seat and shouts across to the Doctor. 'Wench! Get me some wine. Come on. Hurry up woman.' The Doctor brings some wine over but Ffinch is unable to pay. 'Blast. Be off with you. I'll pay later.'

Polly and Kirsty arrive at the inn, and the Sergeant tells them to go inside and talk to the Lieutenant.

The Doctor's ears prick up when he hears Polly's voice.

The Sergeant shunts Polly and Kirsty towards the Lieutenant's table, but Ffinch is trying to relax and has his eyes closed. 'Algernon,' says Polly. 'Wake up. Wake up, Algy.'

Ffinch barely has time to register his alarm before the Sergeant says, 'These two look like the rebels we were searching for yesterday, sir.' Polly strokes the Lieutenant's shoulder and coos, 'What a nasty man. Tell him we're not, Algy dear.'

'We're old friends,' says Kirsty. 'I can see that,' says the Sergeant. An embarrassed Ffinch dismisses the Sergeant, who immediately averts his gaze.

'This is really too much!' exclaims Ffinch. 'Oh, Algy,' says Polly, 'we thought you'd be flattered.' Kirsty agrees: 'Just the sort of man two defenceless girls would turn to.' Polly asks Ffinch where the Doctor and the other prisoners are. Ffinch tells her to ask Solicitor Grey.

Flattering Ffinch

Polly and Kirsty arrive at Grey's room and are announced by Ffinch. Perkins appears and the Doctor, who is listening nearby, immediately lowers his face. 'Where is the Solicitor?' asks Polly. 'Seeing to his duties,' says Perkins. 'Giving some rebel prisoners the choice between, er, life and death.'

Trask stands at the door of the hold while Grey hovers behind him, clasping some parchments. 'A mark of clemency from his most gracious Majesty King George,' announces Trask. He tells the prisoners, 'It is ordained that there will be those required as witnesses. Those not wanting to turn King's evidence will be hanged.'

'There is another alternative,' continues Grey. 'Plantation workers are required to work in his Majesty's colonies in the West Indies. I have here seven-year contracts. Sign your name to these and you will receive free transportation to your new homes.'
'Don't touch that pen!' warns Willy.

'I know fine what you offer, Mr Solicitor,' says Willy. 'I have seen these plantations in the Indies. Not one of your men that sign will live out your seven years. Better a quick and honourable death at the end of a rope.'

'You've heard what MacKay here offers you,' continues Grey. 'Death with honour? What, lingering on the end of a halter? Followed, may I remind you, by quartering and the like courtesies extended to rebels. I offer you life, with a chance to work for your eventual liberty.'

'Unless of course, Mr MacKay, you would care to turn King's evidence. For the rest of you... for those who wish to sign, over here. For those who wish to hang, over there. Make your choice!'

Soon, all the prisoners except Ben, Jamie, Willy and the Laird are queuing up to sign the Solicitor's contract.

Ben gets up to sign the contract, but instead tears it up front of the Solicitor. 'Clap him in irons,' orders Grey as he takes Trask's whip. 'The next man who tries to oppose me will not be so fortunate.'

Perkins sinks a glass of sherry as he, Polly and Kirsty wait for Solicitor Grey to return. A nervous Polly decides to leave, but Perkins tries to persuade the girls to stay. 'Oh surely, ladies, you won't deprive an old fellow of your charming company. I assure you he won't be long.'

'Now to pass the time, what say you to a nice round of whist?' he asks.

'You need four for whist,' says the Doctor, still disguised as an old woman. 'Kindly remove yourself, madam,' says Perkins, but as he stands up the Doctor aims the Solicitor's flintlock at his chest.

'I'm sure you'll oblige an old woman,' says the Doctor as Perkins slumps back in his chair.

'The German doctor!' exclaims Perkins. The Doctor suggests that maybe he'd like to count the trumps.

As Kirsty is dealing the cards, Solicitor Grey enters the inn. He is surprised to see Perkins in the middle of a game of cards. He orders Perkins to go to his room and prepare more contracts.

Grey marches away, but before Perkins can follow the Doctor reminds him that he has seen nothing. 'We ladies are going to leave first, but you are going to sit here, quietly, comfortably, for another ten minutes.' Perkins nods. 'Ten minutes, Doctor. Ten minutes.'

Kirsty and Polly return to the barn, taking the Doctor with them. 'Why did he call you the German doctor, Doctor?' asks Polly, but the Doctor makes no reply.

Once inside the barn the Doctor produces the flintlock and aims it at a wall. He squeezes the trigger and an alarmed Polly covers her ears. 'It's not loaded,' says the Doctor, smiling. 'They're dangerous things.'

'You know those dresses really do suit you, Doctor,' says Polly. 'Oh you saucy girl!' he replies mischievously. 'You're wonderful Doctor,' she says admiringly. 'I know,' he says, before lying back on the hay and closing his eyes.

'If only we knew where the others were,' says Polly. 'They're on the ship, the Annabelle,' says the Doctor, seemingly exhausted. 'Master's name – Trask. Not a nice man, you wouldn't like him.'

Polly suggests they could capture the ship and sail it to France, but Kirsty refuses to leave Scotland. 'It wouldn't be for very long,' says the Doctor. 'Just for seven...' he catches himself, realising he is about to give too much away about future events. 'Just for a few years. Then it'd be safe to come back.'

'But why should I leave my own country?' says Kirsty. 'Oh, please yourself,' says the Doctor, rolling over. 'But you and your father may get killed if you stay in the glens.'

'Are you sure there's no other way?' asks a distressed Kirsty. 'The Doctor says it won't be for long,' says Polly. 'We must make a plan.' She jabs the Doctor in the ribs and wakes him up.

'Have you got a plan for us?' she asks. 'No.' he replies. 'Oh, go on,' she says. 'I know you better than that, you must have a plan.' The Doctor stretches and admits, 'Well, it's just a wee idea really.'

'It won't work, but it'd be a try,' he says, putting his familiar stovepipe hat back on his head. 'Anyone got any money?' Polly explains that they still have 17 guineas that they stole from Lieutenant Ffinch. 'That's a fortune in these days,' says the Doctor. 'Now, we want weapons – lots of them, and a rowing boat.'

Kirsty says she can get a rowing boat, and the Doctor suggests they can buy the weapons from English soldiers. 'And then?' asks Kirsty. 'We smuggle them aboard the Annabelle,' says the Doctor. 'That's great!' says Polly. 'And then what?' The Doctor yawns. 'Oh, I don't know, we'll think of something. I must get some sleep.'

'Doctor! Doctor!' says Polly, but the Doctor is fast asleep.

Grey and Perkins step aboard the fogbound Annabelle and search for Trask.

'Mr Trask!' bellows Grey. Before long, Trask appears through the dense fog. 'I've had Perkins here copy out three contracts, just to make sure,' says Grey. 'And if anyone tries that trick again of tearing them up, shoot him down immediately.'

Grey tells Trask that he needs two more contracts to be signed. 'Every man jack of them will sign,' says Trask. 'If not with ink, then with blood. It is all the one to me.'

'You're not dealing with slaves, man,' says Grey. 'These Highlanders are men of high courage and resolution. Flog but one of them, they'll all stand together and refuse to sign a thing. No... once they're safely sold in Barbados they can be whipped to death for all I care. Until then, use a light fist, or you'll answer to me.'

'And the London deserter, what about him?' asks Trask. 'Proceed with the ducking,' says Grey. 'It'll serve as a useful encouragement to the rest.

Polly and Kirsty survey the results of their efforts to buy some weapons – a pitchfork, some rusty knives and a broken sword. 'I do hope the Doctor's had better luck,' says Polly.

There is a knock on the door and the Doctor wheels in a handcart covered by a tarpaulin. 'What have you got?' asks Polly excitedly. 'Let's see yours first,' says the Doctor.

The Doctor is polite about the girls' efforts before whipping off the tarpaulin to reveal scores of muskets, flintlocks, dirks and swords.

'You must have robbed the Duke's arsenal,' says Kirsty in amazement. 'Yes, something like that,' the Doctor replies.

'You're fantastic,' says Polly. 'I know,' smirks the Doctor.

Kirsty is admiring one of the pistols when the Doctor's eye is caught by the gold ring she is wearing. 'It's her father's,' says Polly knowingly. 'She won't let you touch it.'

'I'm not surprised,' says the Doctor. 'It's not her father's.' Kirsty is furious and accuses the Doctor of lying. 'Then why has it the Stuarts' seal?' he asks.

'The Prince gave it to my father off his own hand in heat of battle. My father saved the Prince's life.'

'Then it is right and proper that it should now save his life. Give it me,' says the Doctor, thinking out loud. 'Bait,' he says, examining the ring. 'Bait for a very greedy man.'

Ben's hands and feet are tied. He is then tied to a rope suspended from one of the booms that hang over the side of the Annabelle. 'Right lads, take him up,' orders Trask.

Ben is swung over the side of the ship. Trask looks to Grey before giving a nod to one of the sailors. The rope is then slackened and Ben is dropped into the freezing water below. His body hits the surface with a dull splash, and soon disappears from view...

NEXT WEEK: Will Ben escape a watery grave?

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