When the Phillip, Duke of Glenmoor, gave his new friends the Archers his formal name with four Christian names, four titles, and a surname, they were highly amused. The Archers, a frontier family with its roots in the Appalachian mountains, have no truck with formality. The seized on the fourth of his names, Arthur, and decided to call him Artie. He’s just grateful for their care—especially Nan’s—after he was attacked along the river. Now they’ve crossed the Mississippi to Kaskaskia to see of the authorities will do anything to bring a vicious criminal gang to justice while preparing to defend themselves from them if they have to. It is 1818.
“Pity. We’ve only your witness’s word. We’d like to nail those Sullivans to a barn door. Or run them out of the state.” Welling swelled with pride. “We’re no lawless territory here. Not like you folk in Missouri.”
Nan decided not to take offense. She pulled Artie’s ring from her bodice. Her cheeks heated when she noticed Artie watching intently. “This is his lordship’s ring. Our most important evidence.” She lifted the ribbon over her head and handed the ring to Artie.
Welling glanced from Nan to Artie and back. “Lordship?”
Artie spat out his long fancy name and title with a dip of his head. “They set upon me near Smithland Kentucky and took everything I had including this signet ring with my family crest. I would be dead but for these good people. Luke Archer found the ring on our witness and hauled him back for questioning. Unfortunately…”
“He escaped.” Welling’s skepticism was obvious. “His life won’t be worth spit if the Sullivans know he’s talking.”
Welling studied the ring in Artie’s hand. “Distinctive. That might turn it, especially if you can identify them.” He didn’t try to take the ring. “You keep that safe,” he said.
“If you know the Sullivan gang so well, why haven’t you done them in before?” Nan demanded.
Welling shifted uneasily. “Slippery devils, ain’t they? Arrested them once and set up a trial in Elizabethtown, but no one would testify. Had to let them go.” He eyed Artie slyly. “How about you, yer lordship? If we haul their carcasses up here, will you come in to testify?”
Artie stood tall and for once Nan could see he was every inch the powerful man he claimed to be. “Without question Mr. Welling. You have my word. And it is Your Grace, if you please.”
“Grace?” Welling scratched his chin.
“A duke is addressed as ‘Your Grace.’ Lesser peers are ‘my lord.’” Artie stared the man down. It tickled Nan.
Welling’s eyes skittered away. “We’ll send some men to find them and drag them in. We’ll send word when we do—yer honor.”
“The British envoy to Washington will be grateful to you,” Artie said.
Nan hadn’t thought of that. A man as important as a duke ought to have folks looking for him. She studied Artie more closely.
“What about the list of victims we gave you?” Jamie asked. “Some of them can testify too.”
Welling shrugged. “Mebbe they will, mebbe they won’t. Maybe we’ll get lucky and the Sullivans’ll try to resist so we can shoot them. It’s worth arresting them if we can count on the duke here, though.”
“Fair enough,” Artie said and they all turned to leave, Jamie and Nan leading, Artie with an arm around Nate’s shoulders.
“You best watch yourself,” Welling called after them. All four stopped in their tracks. “All of you. If the Sullivans get wind you’ll testify, they’ll come after you.”
None of them turned around. “We’re aware of it, Welling,” Artie said.
From Duke in Name Only
Note: excerpts from works in progress may have not yet been edited, will likely undergo change, and may not even make it into the final work!
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