Roanoke 05

Roanoke: Chapter Five

 

At eight forty in the morning Edwyn le Fay was aboard a steamer which, hopefully, would get him to Kitty Hawk in North Carolina. He would be one step closer towards solving the mystery of what had happened on Roanoke Island over three hundred years ago.

The steamer was a lot smaller than the one on which he had crossed the North Atlantic. In fact it looked a little ramshackle to le Fay. There was paint peeling from the funnels. There was more paint peeling from the handrails which went around the deck. It was not so big, meaning that it would be able to enter shallower waters. But it did not strike le Fay as being particularly seaworthy. He was beginning to think that sailing on the water was not necessarily a good idea.

He had boarded the steamer at the earliest opportunity. He had not yet gone down to his cabin, but had stayed on deck, watching everybody else who came aboard the boat.  He was looking for somebody from the steamer which he had taken from Southampton to New York. If somebody was following him then he hoped that he might recognise them.

He watched everybody who came aboard the boat. None of them acted suspiciously, or reacted to the fact that he was looking over the side of the ship, watching them come up the gangplank. Nobody saw him, acted startled, and walked back down onto the shore. Everything looked entirely innocent. But that did not make him any the less worried.

He feared that somebody was following him. He could not shake that opinion.

 

The town of Kitty Hawk was small. There could not be more than a few hundred people in the town. It was the smallest place le Fay had been to in a long time. But he still had to get there, first.

The ship dropped le Fay off at somewhere called Point Harbor. It could only be accessed by the smaller steamships because of sandbanks in the area. Anything bigger than the ship which had taken le Fay there would have got stuck. Le Fay was now in Currituck County.

Le Fay was the only person who got off the steamship near Kitty Hawk. As soon as he had left the ship he had turned back to look at it, to see if anybody was going to follow him into the town.

There were two men standing at the railings, looking down at le Fay. One of them was old, perhaps in his fifties, wearing a grey mackintosh. He had a hat pulled down low, perhaps to help shade his features. The other man was much younger. But he was very thin, clean-shaven, and entirely bald. He, too, was staring down at le Fay.

Le Fay was sure that one of those two men was the person who had broken into his cabin on the SS City of New York. He was sure that it was the man who had been in his room in the hotel in New York, and who had been following him around the city. But le Fay did not know which of the two men it was. It could have been either of them. He did not recall seeing either of them as a passenger on the journey from Southampton to New York.

Le Fay watched the small steamship as it continued on its way. He was making sure that neither of the men was going to do anything stupid, like dive into the sea. But neither did.

He was able to breathe a big sigh of relief. He did not know why some person had been following him. But he was sure that he was now alone, and free from the tail. It did not occur to le Fay that, if there really was somebody who had been following him, that they knew exactly where he was going.

 

The settlement of Kitty Hawk had originally been known as Chickahawk, back when it had been founded in the early eighteenth century. As with many places names it had originally been Native American. But all of the Native Americans were long gone from the area. It was now a village of some three hundred fishing folk.

Le Fay, as he walked to the village, did not know that for the past few years a pair of brothers called the Wrights had been experimenting with heavier-than-air gliding craft at Kitty Hawk. He would not have been impressed, though. There had allegedly been an ornithopter built by the would-be conqueror Rex Mundi years ago, although that had been destroyed. That had not been a true heavier-than-air craft, though, as it had used Phlogiston to reduce its weight. But le Fay, like most people, would have said that the future of air travel lay in the zeppelins which were so luxurious.

The Wright brothers were not at Kitty Hawk at the moment, though. They had last been there in the October of 1902, and would not be back in the village for several months.

The area around the village of Kitty Hawk was sandy in parts, but swampy in others. It was not the most scenic place, as far as le Fay was concerned. But he had not come here for the scenery. He had come to solve a mystery that was hundreds of years old. This was just one stop on the way.

He dragged his cases into the middle of the village. He looked for a hotel. He couldn’t see one.

He tried asking for advice. He stopped a woman with a black shawl around her head and shoulders, who had been walking down what passed for a road.

“Excuse me, but is there a hotel in this town?”

The woman shook her head.

“Well, is there anywhere where I can stay, just overnight?”

She shrugged her shoulders, and walked on. Le Fay watched her go, but didn’t say anything else.

He wandered around the town. There was not really that much to see. There wasn’t a hotel. But, in the end, he found that he didn’t need one. He was approached by an elderly man, who must have recognised Edwyn le Fay as an outsider.

“Good day, young sir. You look lost.”

Edwyn le Fay felt a little lost.

“I’m looking for somewhere to stay.” he said. “I only want to stay overnight. I’m hoping to get to Roanoke Island tomorrow.”

“Are you?” the old man put his head on one side, as he studied le Fay. If he wondered why anybody might want to get to Roanoke he kept it to himself. At least the old man had a kindly face, albeit one which was heavily wrinkled by time. A lot of wrinkles, and very little white hair left, just a few thin strands ruffled by the breeze. “We don’t have many people come here. There’s the Wright boys, but they only come for the winter, when it gets really windy around here. So there’s no hotel here. But you look tired. I’m guessing by your accent that you’ve come a long way. You’re not from around here, are you?”

“I’m from London.” Le Fay did not see the harm in saying that to this old man. He could not possibly be connected with whoever had been following him.

“You had better drag your cases over to my house.” the old man said. “You can stay with me tonight. My name’s Bill. We’ll find you somebody to take you over to Roanoke tomorrow, if you don’t mind going on a fishing boat. You’ll have to be up early mind.”

“I don’t mind getting up early.”

“Good. Well, the house is this way. Sorry I can’t help you with your cases. But my back is not what it used to be.”

 

The old man led le Fay to a small house on the edge of Kitty Hawk. The house was neat and tidy. The old man opened the door and showed le Fay inside.

“There’s a spare bed.” the old man said. “It was my son’s, but he lives in Richmond now. You can have it for the night. I don’t think that he’d mind. Put your cases in the room, young man.”

Edwyn le Fay put his two suitcases in the other room, beside the bed. The room was tiny. But it was very clean. There was the bed, a table beside the bed, and a hearth which probably had not been used in a while, as the room felt a little damp.

“I know it’s April, but I’ll lit a fire in there a bit later.” Bill said. “You’ll need it to warm the room.”

“Thank you.” le Fay said. Bill wandered back into the other room.

Le Fay checked that the cases were locked. He didn’t think that this old man would be interested in what was in those cases. But, after what had happened on the boat coming over to America, le Fay was taking no chances.

Le Fay rejoined the old man in the other room. Le Fay was not sure what to do. Nor was he sure what to say. He spent most of his time alone, and he was not really used to talking to other people.

 

Le Fay discovered that the old man’s full name was Bill Campbell. He had lived in Kitty Hawk all his life. He had used to be a fisherman, but he had given that up some years ago, and had sold his boat. But he had done a few other things, as well: he had been a handyman and painter and carpenter. Now the only painting which he did was seascapes. There were a few of those hung up around his small but tidy house. They might not have been Turner, but they were still better than anything which le Fay could have done.

“Sit down, young man.” Campbell said. He nodded towards a chair. Le Fay sat down. “So, you’re from London.”

“Yes, I am.” Edwyn le Fay hoped that there would not be too much small talk. He was aware that he wasn’t very good at it.

“Never been to London. Never been to Britain. The furthest I’ve been is New York, and I can’t say that I liked that much. So what does a young man like you do for a living?”

“Well, I…” Le Fay was not sure what to say. He had heard that not everybody in America approved of wizards. But he could hardly say that he was a physical labourer, when it was obvious from a cursory glance that he was not.

“Yes?”

“Well, I’m a wizard.” le Fay said.

Bill Campbell raised his eyebrows.

“Are you now? I can’t say that I’ve ever met a wizard before. Don’t you have to wear black robes or somethin’?”

“Um, no.”

“Well, I wouldn’t go around tellin’ everybody that you’re a wizard. Some people don’t like things like that, even here in Kitty Hawk. There were three wizards who fought for the South in the Long War. But they weren’t treated that well when the war was over, even though they maybe stopped the south from being defeated.”

Edwyn le Fay knew their names. They had been Colonel John Francis, Jack Knocker and August Zacharius. After the armistice which had ended the war they had not been treated as heroes by the South. It had been almost as though the Confederacy had been embarrassed by the part played by those wizards in ensuring that the South didn’t lose the war.  Le Fay thought that one of the trio had been so disgruntled that he had even emigrated to Canada.

“You haven’t bee carting your Magick around here, have you?” Campbell continued. For the first time there was the hint of suspicion in his voice.

“I can say honestly that I have cast no spells in Kitty Hawk, and that I have no intention of doing so.”

“So what brings a wizard to Kitty Hawk? You said that you wanted to get to Roanoke Island.”

Having said so much le Fay saw no reason in not telling Bill Campbell the truth.

“Please don’t repeat what I am about to tell you.” he said. “Like you said, not everybody likes wizards.” There has also been the incident on the steamer, and the fact that le Fay was sure that somebody had been in his hotel room in New York. “Anyway, I told you that I want to get to Roanoke Island. I’m sure that you know about the legend of the Lost Colony. Well, that is why I have come here. I hope to try and solve the mystery of what happened to those colonists in the sixteenth century. That’s it. That is why I am here.”

Bill Campbell smiled, and shook his head.

“Is that what wizards do, then? Look into old mysteries?”

“It is what I do.” le Fay said. He felt a little nettled by the fact that Campbell was smiling at him, as though he was some sort of fool.

“Well, I wish you all success.” Campbell said. The way that he said it, though, suggested that he did not think that le Fay had any chance whatsoever of solving the mystery after such a length of time. Le Fay resolved to prove him wrong. He would find out what had happened to the Lost Colony, if it was the last thing that he did.

The conversation paused, then, for a minute or so, with neither of them having anything to say. Then the two men began to talk of other things: the weather, Britain, America, and so on. They talked for hours.

Later bill Campbell cooked a stew for the two of them. It was the best meal which Edwyn le Fay had had in ages. He cleared both the helpings which were set in a bowl in front of him.

“Better get an early night.” Campbell said, a little after the stew. “We’ll be off early in the morning.”

“Oh. Alright.”

Le Fay went into the spare bedroom, undressed, and got into bed. But it was still a bit early for him to go to sleep. So he got out his notebook – where he had put everything that he had been able to find out about the Lost Colony on Roanoke Island – and reread his notes for a little while. Then, when he began to feel a little drowsy, he turned out the gas lamp on the table beside the bed and went to sleep. It was not the most restful of slumbers.

 

Le Fay was suddenly aware of somebody shaking him gently. He was awake with a start, sitting up in his bed.

There was a lit gas lamp on the table beside his bed. Le Fay could see an old man standing there. It must have been the old man who had been shaking him. It took a couple of seconds for le Fay to realise that the old man was Bill Campbell, and that he was in the old man’s house in the small town of Kitty Hawk.

“You was having a nightmare.” Bill said. “Goin’ on about some devil.”

“Gideon de Ville.” le Fay said. He recalled only the end of the dream, where it had been de Ville who had pursued him from England; who had gone through his belongings on the steamer; who had gone into his hotel room in New York. But de Ville was dead. He had been dead for years.

It was funny, but le Fay was still more scared of Gideon de Ville than of any of the wizards of the Coven of the Blood.

“Well, he doesn’t sound like a nice person.”

“He wasn’t. What time is it?”

“Four o’clock.”

“In the morning? I am sorry if I woke you.”

“It was my plumbing that got me up. Dare say it will do the same to you when you are as old as I am. But if you want something to eat before going for the boat then you’d better get up.”

“At four in the morning?”

“Unless you want to wait for another day.”

“I’ll get ready.”

 

Edwyn le Fay got dressed as quickly as he could. If he hadn’t done that then he would have gone back to sleep. He really was not a morning person.

He had a perfunctory wash, and then joined Campbell for a very quick breakfast. Then le Fay picked up his suitcases, and followed Campbell down to where some men were getting a fishing boat ready.

There was a short conversation between the men and Campbell. It seemed that the men owed Campbell some sort of a favour. It was clear that they were not exactly pleased by the idea of having to take this Englishman to Roanoke Island. But they agreed to take him there. Not that le Fay noticed – he was too busy yawning.

Then le Fay was being helped aboard the fishing boat. The boat was a steam launch, of sorts, and by far the smallest boat which le Fay had been on since the time that he had visited Lochindorb Castle. He just about remembered to thank Bill Campbell for all of his help.

Le Fay stood in one area of the boat, trying to stay out of the way, and trying not to be ill, as the boat was going up and down quite a bit on the waves. He did not vomit, though. Maybe he still had his sea legs. Or maybe it was because he could see the sea going up and down.

The fishermen did not bother asking him why he wanted to go to Roanoke Island, and le Fay did not bother to tell them. Bill Campbell had been the exception. Otherwise, as far as le Fay was concerned. The fewer people who knew what he was up to the better.

Le Fay began to study the fishing boat. It stank of fish, and he was sure that the smell was permeating his clothing to such an extent that he would never get rid of it. There was a little bit of water swilling around the deck, and, worryingly, there was some blood mixed in with the water. Le Fay supposed that the blood must come from the fish. Well, he hoped that the blood came from the fish. Yet he could not help imagining that these fishermen had done somebody in, and that he was about to become the next victim. He was cursed with an overactive imagination.

He did not end up getting murdered, though. Instead he got put ashore next to a small village, and left there, as the fishing boat went in search of fish, no longer having to ferry around strange Englishmen.

Le Fay was finally on Roanoke Island.

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