The Forbidden Lady was originally published as For Love or Country in 2002. Now, it’s been revised to be funnier and sexier than ever!
Introducing Kerrelyn’s first historical hero—Quincy Stanton! With his 18th-century spy gadgets, he appears to be the “James Bond” of the American Revolution. But with his lacy clothes and lavender-tinted wig, he looks more like The Scarlet Pimpernel. Which is he—the rugged sea captain or the obnoxious dandy? And who will be clever enough to see through his disguise?
Only another spy could be that clever. Introducing Kerrelyn’s first historical heroine—Virginia Munro. Is Boston big enough for the two of them? Only if they combine forces.
“This humor-laced historical with its delightful characters and snappy dialogue is pure fun."
John Charles, Booklist
Friday, July 21, 1769
“What the bloody hell is happening here?” Quincy Stanton demanded as his uncle crossed the gangplank onto his schooner.
Edward Stanton gave him a wry smile. “Is that any way to greet me? I haven’t seen you in months.”
“Sorry.” Quincy glared at the soldiers in the distance. “I thought I had escaped the British, and what do I find the minute I arrive in Boston but a pack of redcoats marching up and down the wharf. Why is the British army here?”
“A good question.”
Over his uncle’s shoulder, Quincy spied a short man in brown carefully inching his way across the narrow gangplank. A landlubber. “Who is this?” he whispered. “An acquaintance of yours?”
“I’ll introduce you later.” Edward lowered his voice. “Right now, I must speak to you. Alone, in your cabin.”
Quincy studied his uncle’s face, noting the worry in the characteristic gray Stanton eyes. His gut reaction had been correct. Boston was in trouble. “This way.” He led his uncle below deck to the captain’s quarters.
Edward entered the small cabin. “How was your trip?”
“It was a disaster.” Quincy shut the door with more force than necessary. He thumped two pewter tankards onto the table. “Our ship sailed as well as expected, but my father--” He grabbed a half-full jug of beer from the sideboard. “I had no idea he was such a pompous, arrogant...fool.”
Edward winced. “I see.”
Straddling a chair, Quincy pulled the cork from the jug with his teeth and expelled it onto the table. “You should have warned me.”
“How could I?” Edward took a seat while Quincy filled their tankards. “You were so thrilled when my brother asked to see you after all these years. I sincerely hoped it would be the kind of reunion you wanted, that you deserved.”
Quincy surged to his feet and paced about the cabin. The ugly truth was damned hard to admit, even to the uncle who had raised him. Rage he could handle, perhaps not well, but a great deal better than feeling pathetic. “When I first arrived in England, I actually believed it was the warm homecoming I had always dreamed about. My father spent a small fortune buying me elegant clothing. To please him, I shaved off my hair to wear the wigs he purchased. He showed me off like a prized stallion at the balls and soirées.”
“He must be proud of you.” Edward tilted his mug, taking a long drink.
“No, to him I will always be the unwanted bastard. He introduced me to everyone as his nephew, that is, your son.”
Edward choked on his beer. “My son? I was only twelve years old when you were born.”
Quincy swatted his coughing uncle on the back. “Obviously, ciphering is not one of my father’s fortés. After a month in London, he took me to one country estate after another, and fool that I was, I thought he merely wished to show me all his property. It took me another two months to realize my father was keeping one step ahead of his creditors.”
“Bloody hell! Henry is broke?”
“Aye.” Quincy sat and swallowed some beer. “In one night, he gambled away ninety percent of his wealth.”
Speechless, Edward stared at his nephew.
Quincy scowled at his drink. “My father was never interested in me.” He downed the remaining liquid and banged his mug onto the table with a metallic clunk. He splashed more beer into the mug, spilling a portion onto the table. With the sleeve of his plain homespun shirt, he wiped the pine surface, careless of the amber streaks left on his clothing. “He wanted to see how profitable our business was.”
Edward flinched. “Our business?”
“He requested I loan him our schooner, The Forbidden Lady, so he could recoup his losses.”
“Damn.” Edward gripped the edge of the table. “He would sell her to the highest bidder.”
“That’s what I thought, so I made a quick departure.” Quincy curled his hands into tight fists. “There’s more. He began legal proceedings to claim Stanton Shipping is part of his inheritance, since the money that originally financed our business came from his father.”
“No!” Edward leapt to his feet. “He’ll steal everything we worked so hard to accomplish. That...bastard.”
Quincy snorted. “He considers me the bastard. And he thought I would be grateful because he deigned to acknowledge I was alive.”
Edward paced about the cabin. “Damn that Henry! He inherited the title, the land. Everything was simply given to him, while we sweated for every penny. We cannot allow this.”
Quincy leaned back in his chair. “He plans to send his legitimate son to Boston in a few months to learn the business.”
“To take over, you mean. Damnation!” Edward bashed a fist against the palm of his other hand. “If my brother succeeds in the British courts, the courts here will yield to their decision. Our mother country never misses a chance to spank us like an ungrateful child.”
“Speaking of our dear mother country, what the hell is her army doing here? Is Boston under military rule?”
With a sigh, Edward sat. “They came while you were in England.”
“For what purpose?”
“To protect us from Indian attack, so they claim.”
“Indians attacking Boston? And I suppose their ship patrolling the harbor needs those cannons to protect us from a fleet of canoes?”
Edward smiled wryly. “Hardly. She’s a customs schooner with the sole purpose of harassing each ship that comes to port. Did they stop you?”
“Aye, and threatened to confiscate the goods I picked up in Le Havre. After I paid off the captain, he graciously allowed me to dock at my own wharf in my own hometown.” Quincy finished his beer.
“There’ll be more bribes to pay to the customs officials in town. And the damn redcoats march around Boston, watching our every move.”
Quincy slammed his tankard down. “This is outrageous. We’re British citizens, not a pack of criminals. We must do something. Do the Sons of Liberty have a plan?”
“Aye, they do.” Edward shifted in his chair, then looked Quincy in the eye. “You.”
“We know the British are here to suppress us, but we cannot make such a claim without written proof. We need someone who can socialize freely with the wealthy Loyalists in town. The redcoat officers quarter in their homes. The documents we need could be there.”
Quincy waited a beat for an explanation, but then it occurred to him. “You think I can do it?”
Edward leaned forward on his elbows. “You’re in a unique position to help the cause. You’ve been away ten months. What if you returned to Boston a changed man, transformed into a staunch Loyalist? You could befriend the British officers, hobnob with the other Loyalists and dazzle their wives and daughters with your incomparable charm.”
Quincy looked over his shoulder to see if his uncle was referring to someone else. “Bloody hell. I’m a sea captain. Ask my men if they find me charming.”
“You can do this, Quin. Just think how much information you could glean if the redcoats believed you were on their side.”
Quincy tapped his fingers on the table as he considered. “Everyone knows we support the Colonial cause. Will they believe I have changed so drastically?”
“I have spread the word that you are, in truth, the son of the Earl of Dearlington. You’ve been away a long time, and if you act and dress the part, people will believe what they see.”
“I do possess the manner of clothing that would suit the purpose, what my father bought in London. The stuff is so hideous I was tempted to throw it overboard. I only restrained myself because it is worth a bloody fortune.”
“Excellent. Then you can dress appropriately. We’ll stage an argument in a crowded tavern where you’ll defend your Tory views and part from me in anger. Our solicitor has rented a large furnished house for you, fully staffed with servants. You need only act the role of a pompous, arrogant, totally useless English lord.”
“Like my father.” Quincy frowned at his clenched fists. “I’ll be damned if I’ll cower to the British or allow my father to steal what is mine.”
“We need a decision now. The minute you leave this ship you’ll have to assume your new role.”
Quincy nodded. “I understand.”
“We’re counting on you. Will you do it?”
“Be a spy?” Quincy took a deep breath, mentally blocking the consequences of such a request. If he didn’t do something, he would go mad. “Yes. I will.”
“Good.” Edward opened the door to reveal the short man in brown who had followed him on board. “Allow me to introduce your new employer, Mr. Johnson.”
Tuesday, August 29, 1769
“I say, dear gel, how much do you cost?”
Virginia’s mouth dropped open. “I—-I beg your pardon?”
The bewigged, bejeweled, and bedeviling man who faced her spoke again. “You’re a fetching sight and quite sweet-smelling for a wench who has traveled for weeks, imprisoned on this godforsaken ship. I say, what is your price?”
She opened her mouth, but nothing came out. The rolling motion of the ship caught her off guard, and she stumbled, widening her stance to keep her balance. This man thought she was for sale? Even though they were on board The North Star, a brigantine newly arrived in Boston Harbor with a fresh supply of indentured servants, could he actually mistake her for one of the poor wretched criminals huddled near the front of the ship?
Her first reaction of shock was quickly replaced with anger. It swelled in her chest, heated to a quick boil, and soared past her ruffled neckline to her face, scorching her cheeks ’til she fully expected steam, instead of words, to escape her mouth.
“How...how dare you!” With gloved hands, she twisted the silken cords of her drawstring purse. “Pray, be gone with you, sir.”
“Ah, a saucy one.” The gentleman plucked a silver snuffbox from his lavender silk coat. He kept his tall frame erect to avoid flipping his wig, which was powdered with a lavender tint to match his coat. “Tsk, tsk, dear gel, such impertinence is sure to lower your price.”
Her mouth fell open again.
Seizing the opportunity, he raised his quizzing glass and examined the conveniently opened orifice. “Hmm, but you do have excellent teeth.”
She huffed. “And a sharp tongue to match.”
“Mon Dieu, a very saucy mouth, indeed.” He smiled, displaying straight, white teeth.
A perfectly bright smile, Virginia thought. What a pity his mental faculties were so dim in comparison. But she refrained from responding with an insulting remark. No good could come from stooping to his level of ill manners. She stepped back, intending to leave, but hesitated when he spoke again.
“I do so like your nose. Very becoming and--” He opened his silver box, removed a pinch of snuff with his gloved fingers and sniffed.
She waited for him to finish the sentence. He was a buffoon, to be sure, but she couldn’t help but wonder--did he actually like her nose? Over the years, she had endured a great deal of teasing because of the way it turned up on the end.
He snapped his snuffbox shut with a click. “Ah, yes, where was I, becoming and...disdainfully haughty. Yes, that’s it.”
Heat pulsed to her face once more. “I daresay it is not surprising for you to admire something disdainfully haughty, but regardless of your opinion, it is improper for you to address me so rudely. For that matter, it is highly improper for you to speak to me at all, for need I remind you, sir, we have not been introduced.”
He dropped his snuffbox back into his pocket. “Definitely disdainful. And haughty.” His mouth curled up, revealing two dimples beneath the rouge on his cheeks.
She glared at the offensive fop. Somehow, she would give him the cut he deserved.
A short man in a brown buckram coat and breeches scurried toward them. “Mr. Stanton! The criminals for sale are over there, sir, near the forecastle. You see the ones in chains?”
Raising his quizzing glass, the lavender dandy pivoted on his high heels and perused the line of shackled prisoners. He shrugged his silk-clad shoulders and glanced back at Virginia with a look of feigned horror. “Oh, dear, what a delightful little faux pas. I suppose you’re not for sale after all?”
“No, of course not.”
“I do beg your pardon.” He flipped a lacy, monogrammed handkerchief out of his chest pocket and made a poor attempt to conceal the wide grin on his face.
A heavy, flowery scent emanated from his handkerchief, nearly bowling her over. He was probably one of those people who never bathed, just poured on more perfume. She covered her mouth with a gloved hand and gently coughed.
“Well, no harm done.” He waved his handkerchief in the air. “C’est la vie and all that. Would you care for some snuff? ’Tis my own special blend from London, don’t you know. We call it Grey Mouton.”
“Why, yes. Sink me! You parlez français? How utterly charming for one of your class.”
Narrowing her eyes, she considered strangling him with the drawstrings of her purse.
He removed the silver engraved box from his pocket and flicked it open. “A pinch, in the interest of peace?” His mouth twitched with amusement.
“No, thank you.”
He lifted a pinch to his nose and sniffed. “What did I tell you, Johnson?” he asked the short man in brown buckram at his side. “These Colonials are a stubborn lot, far too eager to take offense”--he sneezed delicately into his lacy handkerchief-- “and far too unappreciative of the efforts the mother country takes on their behalf.” He slid his closed snuffbox back into his pocket.
Virginia planted her hands on her hips. “You speak, perhaps, of Britain’s kindness in providing us with a steady stream of slaves?”
She gestured toward the raised platform of the forecastle, where Britain’s latest human offering stood in front, chained at the ankles and waiting to be sold.
“Oh.” He waved his scented handkerchief in dismissal. “You mean the indentured servants. They’re not slaves, my dear, only criminals paying their dues to society. ’Tis the mother country’s fervent hope they will be reformed by their experience in America.”
“I see. Perhaps we should send the mother country a boatload of American wolves to see if they can be reformed by their experience in Britain?”
His chuckle was surprisingly deep. “Touché.”
The deep timbre of his voice reverberated through her skin, striking a chord that hummed from her chest down to her belly. She caught her breath and looked at him more closely. When his eyes met hers, his smile faded away. Time seemed to hold still for a moment as he held her gaze, quietly studying her.
The man in brown cleared his throat.
Virginia blinked and looked away. She breathed deeply to calm her racing heart. Once more, she became aware of the murmur of voices and the screech of sea gulls overhead. What had happened? It must be the thrill of putting the man in his place that had affected her. Strange, though, that he had happily acknowledged her small victory.
Mr. Stanton gave the man in brown a mildly irritated look, then smiled at her once more. “American wolves, you say? Really, my dear, these people’s crimes are too petty to compare them to murderous beasts. Why, Johnson here was an indentured servant before becoming my secretary. Were you not, Johnson?”
“Aye, Mr. Stanton,” the older man answered. “But I came voluntarily. Not all these people are prisoners. The group to the right doesn’t wear chains. They’re selling themselves out of desperation.”
“There, you see.” The dandy spread his gloved hands, palms up, in a gesture of conciliation. “No hard feelings. In fact, I quite trust Johnson, here, with all my affairs in spite of his criminal background. You know the Colonials are quite wrong in thinking we British are a cold, callous lot.”
Virginia gave Mr. Johnson a small, sympathetic smile, letting him know she understood his indenture had not been due to a criminal past. Her own father, faced with starvation and British cruelty, had left his beloved Scottish Highlands as an indentured servant. Her sympathy seemed unnecessary, however, for Mr. Johnson appeared unperturbed by his employer’s rudeness. No doubt, the poor man had grown accustomed to it.
She gave Mr. Stanton her stoniest of looks. “Thank you for enlightening me.”
“My pleasure, dear gel. Now I must take my leave.” Without further ado, he ambled toward the group of gaunt, shackled humans, his high-heeled shoes clunking on the ship’s wooden deck and his short secretary tagging along behind.
Virginia scowled at his back. The British needed to go home and the sooner, the better.
“I say, old man.” She heard his voice filter back as he addressed his servant. “I do wish the pretty wench was for sale. A bit too saucy, perhaps, but I do so like a challenge. Quel dommage, a real pity, don’t you know.”
A vision of herself tackling the dandy and stuffing his lavender-tinted wig down his throat brought a smile to her lips. She could do it. Sometimes she pinned down her brother when he tormented her. Of course, such behavior might be frowned upon in Boston. This was not the hilly region of North Carolina that the Munro family called home.
And the dandy might prove difficult to knock down. Watching him from the back, she realized how large he was. She grimaced at the lavender bows on his high-heeled pumps. Why would a man that tall need to wear heels? Another pair of lavender bows served as garters, tied over the tabs of his silk knee breeches. His silken hose were too sheer to hide padding, so those calves were truly that muscular. How odd.
He didn’t mince his steps like one would expect from a fopdoodle, but covered the deck with long, powerful strides, the walk of a man confident in his strength and masculinity.
She found herself examining every inch of him, calculating the amount of hard muscle hidden beneath the silken exterior. What color was his hair under that hideous tinted wig? Probably black, like his eyebrows. His eyes had gleamed like polished pewter, pale against his tanned face.
Her breath caught in her throat. A tanned face? A fop would not spend the necessary hours toiling in the sun that resulted in a bronzed complexion.
This Mr. Stanton was a puzzle.
She shook her head, determined to forget the perplexing man. Yet, if he dressed more like the men back home--tight buckskin breeches, boots, no wig, no lace . . .
The sun bore down with increasing heat, and she pulled her hand-painted fan from her purse and flicked it open. She breathed deeply as she fanned herself. Her face tingled with a mist of salty air and the lingering scent of Mr. Stanton’s handkerchief.
She watched with growing suspicion as the man in question postured in front of the women prisoners with his quizzing glass, assessing them with a practiced eye. Oh, dear, what were the horrible man’s intentions? She slipped her fan back into her purse and hastened to her father’s side.
Jamie Munro was speaking quietly to a fettered youth who appeared a good five years younger than her one and twenty years. “All I ask, young man, is honesty and a good day’s work. In exchange, ye’ll have food, clean clothes, and a clean pallet.”
The spindly boy’s eyes lit up, and he licked his dry, chapped lips. “Food?”
Virginia’s father nodded. “Aye. Mind you, ye willna be working for me, lad, but for my widowed sister, here, in Boston. Do ye have any experience as a servant?”
The boy lowered his head and shook it. He shuffled his feet, the scrape of his chains on the deck grating at Virginia’s heart.
“Papa,” she whispered.
Jamie held up a hand. “Doona fash yerself, lass. I’ll be taking the boy.”
As the boy looked up, his wide grin cracked the dried dirt on his cheeks. “Thank you, my lord.”
Jamie winced. “Mr. Munro, it is. We’ll have none of that lordy talk aboot here. Welcome to America.” He extended a hand, which the boy timidly accepted. “What is yer name, lad?”
“George Peeper, sir.”
“Father.” Virginia tugged at the sleeve of his blue serge coat. “Can we afford any more?”
Jamie Munro’s eyes widened and he blinked at his daughter. “More? Just an hour ago, ye upbraided me aboot the evils of purchasing people, and now ye want more? ’Tis no’ like buying ribbons for yer bonny red hair.”
“I know, but this is important.” She leaned toward him. “Do you see the tall man in lavender silk?”
Jamie’s nose wrinkled. “Aye. Who could miss him?”
“Well, he wanted to purchase me—-”
She pressed the palms of her hands against her father’s broad chest as he moved to confront the dandy. “’Twas a misunderstanding. Please.”
His blue eyes glittering with anger, Jamie clenched his fists. “Let me punch him for you, lass.”
“No, listen to me. I fear he means to buy one of those ladies for...immoral purposes.”
Jamie frowned at her. “And what would ye be knowing of a man’s immoral purposes?”
“Father, I grew up on a farm. I can make certain deductions, and I know from the way he looked at me, the man is not looking for someone to scrub his pots.”
“What can I do aboot it?”
“If he decides he wants one, you could outbid him.”
“He would just buy another, Ginny. I canna be buying the whole ship. I can scarcely afford this one here.”
She bit her lip, considering. “You could buy one more if Aunt Mary pays for George. She can afford it much more than we.”
“Nay.” Jamie shook his head. “I willna have my sister paying. This is the least I can do to help Mary before we leave. Besides, I seriously doubt I could outbid the dandy even once. Look at the rich way he’s dressed, though I havena a clue why a man would spend good coin to look like that.”
The ship rocked suddenly, and Virginia held fast to her father’s arm. A breeze wafted past her, carrying the scent of unwashed bodies. She wrinkled her nose. She should have displayed the foresight to bring a scented handkerchief, though not as overpowering as the one sported by the lavender popinjay.
Having completed his leisurely perusal of the women, Mr. Stanton was now conversing quietly with a young boy.
“Look, Father, that boy is so young to be all alone. He cannot be more than ten.”
“Aye,” Jamie replied. “We can only hope a good family will be taking him in.”
“How much for the boy?” Mr. Stanton demanded in a loud voice.
The captain answered, “You’ll be thinking twice before taking that one. He’s an expensive little wretch.”
Mr. Stanton lowered his voice. “Why is that?”
“I’ll be needing payment for his passage and his mother’s. The silly tart died on the voyage, so the boy owes you fourteen years of labor.”
The boy swung around and shook a fist at the captain. “Me mum was not a tart, ye bloody old bugger!”
The captain yelled back, “And he has a foul mouth, as you can see. You’ll be taking the strap to him before the day is out.”
Virginia squeezed her father’s arm. “The boy is responsible for his mother’s debt?”
“Aye.” Jamie nodded. “’Tis how it works.”
Mr. Stanton adjusted the lace on his sleeves. “I have a fancy to be extravagant today. Name your price.”
“At least the poor boy will have a roof over his head and food to eat.” Virginia grimaced. “I only hope the dandy will not dress him in lavender silk.”
Jamie Munro frowned. “Oh, dear.”
“What is it, Father?”
“Ye say the man was interested in you, Ginny?”
“Aye, he seemed to like me in his own horrid way.”
“Hmm. Perhaps the lad will be all right. At any rate, ’tis too late now. Let me pay for George, and we’ll be on our way.”
Leaning back in the seat of the closed carriage, Quincy Stanton yanked the lavender-tinted wig off his head. “The damned thing itches.” He scratched his head and eyed the wig beside him. “Can wigs have lice?”
“I believe so,” Mr. Johnson answered, his face expressionless as usual.
Quin scowled at the man seated across from him in the carriage. “Does anything ever disturb you?”
“I see. Well, did you get the information you needed?”
Johnson patted his chest, indicating that the report from his London operative was in his coat. Someone on board The North Star had secretly passed it to him.
Quin waited, but the man said nothing. “Will you tell me what is happening?”
“Only what is strictly necessary for you to accomplish your mission.”
Stretching his legs in front of him, Quin glowered at the high-heeled shoes that cramped his feet. “Do you think I cannot be trusted?”
“’Tis merely a precaution. You could be captured. By the way, you did an excellent job covering for me just then. No one ever notices me when you’re around.”
“Well, who would have known I could act like such a blooming ass? I suppose it runs in my family.” Quin scratched his head again. “Damn, I was so rude to that young lady.”
“You liked her.”
It was not a question. Quin looked into the shrewd eyes of Mr. Johnson and didn’t bother to deny it. When he had agreed to work for Johnson a month earlier, he had been surprised at the man’s insight. Johnson saw right through everyone, staring at them calmly ’til they confessed the truth. No wonder the man was Boston’s master of spies.
“It matters little what I think of her. She will hope never to see me again.” Quin recalled the contour of her face slanted up to him, brave and indignant. She had made a clever opponent for verbal fencing, retaliating with witty ripostes. When he angered her, the smooth skin of her cheeks blushed pink. Her eyes were green, not brightly colored, but a luminous, pale green like the sun shining through a green glass bottle. There were times he had seen the sea look like that, when the sunlight would catch it just so. It was like looking into the eyes of a mermaid.
“I could find out who she is,” Johnson offered quietly.
Startled from his reverie, Quin shook his head. “No need. Her father would never let me near her. Did you see the way he looked at me when I was buying the boy’s papers? He thinks I was shopping for a catamite.”
“Why did you buy the boy?”
“Josiah claims to be the best pickpocket in all of London.”
“Hardly the best, if he was caught.”
“He wasn’t, but he claims the second-best pickpocket planned to turn him in out of envy. His mother brought him here, hoping to save him from prison, but her death has condemned him to fourteen years of labor.” Quin hoped Josiah was still seated next to the coachman and had not tried to escape.
“And what if he steals from you?”
“I don’t expect him to retire completely. He’ll be my personal servant, assisting me at my social engagements. And while I am busy playing this damnable role, he will busy himself, locating documents and so forth. Servants can go about unnoticed, and a child, even more so.”
“Not a bad plan. You’ve been very helpful, though I wish you wouldn’t tell people I was a criminal.”
Quin grinned, wondering if he would, at last, shake this man’s cool demeanor. “’Tis my revenge for allowing you to ruin my life.”
Johnson nodded. “I figured as much. But your life is hardly ruined.”
“You think not? Boston is my home, and now, all my former friends and acquaintances think I’m the biggest jackass ever to come to town.” They thought he was betraying them and the Colonial cause. She thought he was a foppish, arrogant numbskull. Her father thought he was a pederast. And if she knew the truth, that he was a bastard, it would be even worse. He could just imagine her adorable little nose turned up in disgust.
Quin sighed and rested his head against the seat as he rocked with the motion of the carriage weaving through the congested streets. The sea breeze had loosened her dark auburn hair from its bun, allowing a few stray curls to drift along the nape of her graceful neck. She had the perfect hair color for a mermaid.
“If you can take your mind off that young lady for a moment, I need to explain a few things.”
Quin straightened with an annoyed glare at his director. “How do you do it? Do you have a pact with the devil?”
Johnson shrugged, neither insulted nor surprised. “We have made a few adjustments to your carriage. If you’ll sit beside me for a moment, I will demonstrate.”
Quin moved to the front seat of the coach and watched as Johnson lifted the cushioned lid of the backseat.
“As you can see, there’s a hidden compartment underneath,” Johnson explained. “’Tis stocked with three muskets, a powder horn, a sack of musket balls, and a few knives.” He removed a walking stick and small cloth bag, then dropped the seat back into place. “This is a new snuffbox for you, designed by Revere.” He opened the cloth bag and handed a round silver object to Quin.
“I already have a snuffbox.”
“Not like this. Open it.”
Quin clicked it open. “’Tis rather large, don’t you think?”
“Notice how the top lid has a mirror inside. While you pretend to take snuff, you can watch whatever happens behind you. And this—-” Johnson grasped the snuffbox and demonstrated a small switch that made part of the box slide out from a hinge. “This is a magnifying glass with a special edging of phosphorescence that will make it glow in the dark. This way, you can examine papers in a darkened room without having to light a candle which could obviously alert someone of your presence.” He slid the round glass back into place, and it deftly disappeared into the design of the box.
Quin practiced operating the switch that popped out the magnifying glass. “This is very clever. Thank you.”
“Now, take a look at this walking stick. A simple twist of the silver knob and voilà.” A razor-sharp knife sprang out of the tip, transforming the ebony stick into a bayonet.
Quin cocked a brow. “Tory pigs on a skewer. My favorite dish.”
Johnson gave him a bland look. “You forget, Stanton. As far as most of Boston is concerned, you are a Tory. You may need this stick to protect yourself from some overzealous patriots."
“You have a point, no pun intended.” Quin frowned, recalling an incident when a group of patriots had tarred and feathered a Tory merchant for refusing to sign the nonimportation pact. He twisted the silver knob, and the knife receded into the walking stick.
Johnson continued, “We’re also experimenting with small explosives that can be thrown after they’re lit, but we’re experiencing a delay in their manufacture. The man who was working on them blew his hand off.”
With a gulp, Quin sneaked a sidelong glance at his employer. “How inconsiderate of him.”
“Yes. Now, let’s move to the backseat while I demonstrate the latest addition.”
Quin grabbed his wig from the backseat and tossed it onto the front one. Once they were seated, Johnson reached up to pull on a looped silken cord hanging from the ceiling.
Immediately, a trapdoor over the front seat swooshed open. A heavy iron bar fell out and slammed onto the cushions and the wig with a muffled thud and a puff of lavender flour.
Quin winced. “Ouch. That would really hurt.”
Johnson nodded. “Aye, guaranteed to knock a fellow traveler unconscious. Just in case you find yourself in poor company. Now, help me put it back. ’Tis rather heavy.”
After helping him, Quin pressed on the trapdoor ’til he heard a distinct click. He eased back, wary of being caught underneath in case the heavy rod decided to drop unexpectedly. He lifted his flattened wig. “Perhaps it killed the lice.”
“There’s one more item in the experimental stage. A submersible vessel, operated by one man. I believe you are just the man to help us with it.”
“Why? Did the others lose their hands?”
Johnson sighed. “Pray, don’t be ridiculous, Stanton. There is no danger to your hands, only a slight chance of drowning. You do swim well, don’t you?”