The man with the mole on his cheek walked down the street and twenty pairs of eyes followed him. He was lean and tanned, and he walked with his hands in his pockets. He paused a moment to look into a basket of apples for sale on the side of the road. The men watching him tensed. Then the man resumed his walk.
“Three months I have been after him,” said General Pellier, and his tone was disdainful. He was a big man with arms the size of tree trunks, and Ashton knew from experience that the General didn’t like it when anyone spoke out of turn.
“My intelligence reports confirm that he is a member of the rebel army. The military commander has ordered me to squash the lot of them. I’ve tortured and killed every single suspect, but they’ve all refused to talk,” said the General in an emotionless voice.
“My spies report that the rebel army members pass out notices regarding the time and place of their next meeting by hand, and I’ve been closely watching this swine ever since.” The General spat on the dusty road as he fixed his small eyes on the man. Ashton didn’t fail to see the sullen looks the General and his soldiers were getting from the public.
The tyrannical military leaders were hated throughout the country with a vengeance that could only be matched by General Pellier’s hatred towards the rebel army. Just last week, the rebel army had killed a dozen military soldiers who had been beating and torturing the kind and peaceful nuns in the convent. None of the rebels had been caught, and Pellier’s wrath had been terrible to behold.
“The man is to be searched as soon as he steps out on the main road. I know he will have that message on him.” said the General in a hard voice. Ashton nodded and looked at the other soldiers who were stationed on the ground. Their eyes met and they nodded once.
The man with the mole had not stopped again, but kept walking slowly. His hands had not left their pockets, and his eyes ran over the soldiers on either side of him. But he didn’t say anything as he stepped out of the street and onto the main road.
“Halt,” said the General. The man stopped.
The soldiers moved out of position and quickly surrounded the man. Ashton and the General walked up to him. The man turned, and they were face to face. He looked at the General’s face coolly, but when his gaze fell upon Ashton, his eyes had turned to stone.
“Why have I been asked to stop?” asked the man. He had taken his hands out of his pockets and crossed them in front of his chest. His long sleeved shirt flapped in the cool breeze.
“You have been accused of treason,” the general said, a sneer on his face.
“Your proof for that would be?” he asked and lifted an eyebrow. Quick as a flash, Ashton’s baton crashed into his stomach, and the man crashed to the ground. He made a fist and tried to get up, but fell down again, heaving. The soldiers laughed.
“Do not talk out of turn,” said Ashton. The man glared at him. Ashton did not flinch.
“Have you forgotten who you are, Ashton?” the man said, spitting blood from his mouth. “We grew up together, watched our country go to the dogs because of these people. Now you work for them? Do you still hear your sister’s screams when you go to sleep?”
Ashton swung the baton again. It made contact with the side of the man’s head and he hit the floor hard. This time, he got up quickly. There was a thin line of blood trickling from the side of his forehead.
The General smiled and stepped forward.
“If I had my way, you would be chained in the dungeon without food and water for the rest of your life. I know you have the message from your little army on yourself, so there is hope yet. Subject yourself to a body search, and you will be free to go.”
The General saw a quick flash in the man’s eyes. Fear? Apprehension? The man nodded and spread his arms out in front of his body. The General nodded at Ashton. He watched as Ashton ran his hands all over the man, patting him furiously. He stripped the man of his clothes and felt every pocket and seam, checking for irregularities.
The man with the mole stayed calm and said nothing, his eyes fixed on Ashton. The breeze had picked up, and the man’s body was full of gooseflesh. Ashton let out a breath and turned to the General. He shook his head.
“WHAT?” roared the General. He snatched the clothes from Ashton and checked them himself, ripping the pockets open and turning them inside out. But there was nothing. Not a scrap of paper, not even a single letter that had been scratched or written or woven into the cloth. The General trembled with rage as he threw the clothes down and stomped on them. The dust and grit on the ground mixed with the bright colour of the shirt until it resembled an old rag.
“That is what I think of your rebel army,” he said, his voice choked with fury. He stepped closer to the man.
“And this, is what I think of you.” He spat on the man’s face.
There was a loud gasp as the townsfolk who had been watching so far started to murmur among themselves. Ashton glanced at them and saw a lot of angry faces.
“General,” he said quietly. “We had better go before the crowd turns into a mob.”
The General was still looking at the man with the mole, who had not uttered a word. He simply wiped the spit off his cheek with the back of his hand and stared back at the General. Ashton made an impatient noise and picked up the man’s clothes from the ground. He threw them in his face.
“We will find your army,” said Ashton. “Justice will be done.”
The man put on his clothes silently and turned back without a word. The foot soldiers looked at the General, who nodded. The man walked away from their sight and was soon swallowed by the crowd.
“Let’s go, General.” said Ashton. The General was literally shaking in anger. Large veins were popping in his neck as he walked swiftly away from them. Ashton hoped none of the rookie soldiers would bear the brunt of his anger.
He sighed and looked into the crowd in front of him, trying to spot the man with the mole on his cheek. He had long disappeared. Ashton smiled.
The man with the mole walked swiftly, sidestepping people deftly. He didn’t look back, but his ears were strained to pick up the sound of the boots of the soldiers. He didn’t hear a thing. He rounded a corner and stepped into an alley. He leant against the wall and let out a slow breath.
He slipped two fingers into the sleeve-fold of his shirt and pulled out a piece of paper. He flattened it on his palm and held it to the light. There were only three words on it: Fisherman’s Cove, Midnight. He nodded as he thought back to a few minutes ago. The General, dressed up in his tight military uniform, looking like he was about to explode. The foot-soldiers, giving anxious looks at the crowd that had suddenly turned angry.
Ashton – picking up his soiled shirt from the ground, and slipping the paper inside the sleeve when nobody was looking. The man with the mole smiled, remembering what Ashton had said.
“Justice will be done,” he whispered slowly. He crushed the paper in his hand and put it into his mouth. He chewed thrice and swallowed.