Chapter 20 – Rule of Law
Book of Enlightenment
Deterrent or punishment
Intentional or accidental
Loose connections to questionable behavior
Maeve, her group, and her extended party of prisoners moved down into North Face Cove, the prisoners following the lead horse. They had freed up many of the packhorses using supplies on their outbound journey. Six of those now carried the prisoners. Folks came out to meet the arrivals. Maeve understood the community would still be mourning Maureen. Stan stood by the roadside. After tipping his hat to Maeve he focused all his attention on the prisoners as they moved along.
The silence of their passing was not lost on Maeve or the prisoners. All six lowered their heads—a funeral procession could not have been quieter.
The people of North Face Cove would have most details of their travels, some information provided by Stan and yet more from the two women who’d already returned with the load of weapons in the much faster and shorter boat ride. Their gathering was more to welcome back the comrades who had undertaken a task that they knew concerned them all.
The prisoners were placed in a tackle room no longer in use. The secure shed would temporarily serve the purpose of containing the prisoners. The lack of windows and only one door that could be easily secured and guarded made the shed an ideal solution in the absence of a formal jail. Three men were set to guard them, along with a few dogs who loved to hunt. There would be no escape.
Maeve had a brief chat with those who gathered around. She answered their most urgent questions and promised that once she’d checked out her homestead, changed into some fresh attire, and taken a good long shower, she would meet at the community store to answer any further questions.
Maeve headed off home. Claire met her as she walked in the door, and they exchanged hugs. Claire gave Hekate the prerequisite scratches. There was little need to ask of any happenings in her absence; Maeve knew well that Claire would volunteer any information necessary.
After she left, Maeve’s first thought once alone in her home was of Conor. She hoped his journey was going well.
I’ll not think about that now. For now, things needed doing. First she had to rejoin with the pack. She was not sure who they would want to see most, Hekate or her, but it would be an enjoyable event.
The hours swept by and she addressed the usual duties that were part of her return to everyday life in the cove. She took a break, and made a cup of tea in her favorite mug; already the feeling washed over her that she had never been away.
She headed to the community store in the late afternoon. A number of people had gathered, expecting her arrival. Maeve kept the meeting informal. She gave a short speech to set out all the pertinent details of their ordeal, as best she could remember. She added they were exploring several options to replenish their salt supply. She was confident the short term was taken care of, and the stockpile of guns would allow them to acquire their original quantities with some to spare for the efforts of all concerned.
She invited questions once she had finished what she intended to say.
Maeve answered the few questions offered, after which she asked Stan to join her in front of the gathering. She hugged him close, took his hand, and gave her attention back to those gathered. “I don’t express myself as well as Conor. I wish he stood before you now, and that he was the one to speak to us at this moment.
“Stan is shouldering the burden of an unbearable loss. He and Maureen served this community with love and dedication. She forfeited her life in a mission to right a wrong perpetrated on all of us. The people who did this to us have been found, and the prisoners will stand before our committee and be tried for their crimes.
“A new leader has been appointed in Bear Cub Inlet, the place where these prisoners lived. Her name is Erin and I believe she is someone who fully understands the gravity of what they’ve done. She’s agreed to rename her community Bristol Waters, in honor of Maureen. The name is of course inconsequential to our loss of a comrade, or the grieving that must be endured. I hope the future of that community bears witness to the wonderful person Maureen was.”
Maeve glanced at Stan, who gave the smallest of smiles. She could not hope for anything more. “Let us all take a few moments to remember Maureen.”
In the silence they all bowed their heads.
The gathering turned into friends talking to friends, exchanging opinions on events and the sharing of emotions pertaining to Maureen, Stan, Conor, and his team, and what else might be of concern.
Maeve went from there to meet with Patsy, who informed her that the power storage units had all but failed. Maeve took this grave news, promised to meet in the morning, and headed home to finish the day. Tomorrow was already begging to be forgotten—the trial.
She passed by the house and visited the dogs again, and then the horses.
With salt to be procured, prisoners to deal with, cells useless, Conor far away and likely in danger, the day cast a heavy weight. She chose instead to embrace the solitude and the oneness with her animals and nature; this allowed her energy to increase and her anxiety to wane. She allowed herself to pull a small veil over the concerns and the worries. She could do no more today. Tomorrow would find Maeve ready for the fight; let today set with the sun.
The first stars peeked out and she went inside and lit the fireplace.
She poured herself a glass of red wine, and watching the fire through the glass and wine, she gave her thoughts to Conor before drifting off into the evening.
The evening tucked her in, the wine allowed her spirit to unwind; home allowed her being to let the cloak of belonging cover her in the warm safety of home.
The next morning arrived fresh and bright. A light rain had fallen overnight, giving a light wash to the land. What a beautiful day for such bad business! At least the greenhouses should stay warm for another day.
Maeve ate breakfast and headed down to the community store.
She and Conor served as members of the committee, though both were not permitted to sit in at the same time. They usually rotated in and out, but since Conor was not available it would be her duty.
The committee met, listened to and examined the evidence, explored the facts, the opinions, and expectations of all who wanted to participate. Anyone who would not give direct evidence was limited to fifteen minutes, but usually took less time as a matter of courtesy.
The prisoners had left the shed much earlier. They’d eaten and been offered what amenities they’d needed. They were now made to sit directly in front of the committee. Maeve informed the prisoners they were permitted to speak on their own behalf and ask questions to the other prisoners and the members of the committee.
None of the prisoners chose to speak.
All members of the group who’d accompanied Maeve gave witness to the events surrounding the death of Maureen. The evidence of the transport tire tracks was presented. Eli was asked questions regarding his part in the events. He now refused to speak. The people who had witnessed his original testimony informed the committee what they’d heard.
The hearing continued on for hours without rest. When the presentations were completed, the committee requested the prisoners to give witness to the evidence presented. None took the opportunity.
The committee discussed openly what they believed to be the facts, and their findings and conclusions were written down and signed by all members of the committee.
All received a verdict of guilty, with Aren and Eli being held responsible for murder as well as theft. The other members were also found guilty of planning to commit murder, considering they’d known or should have known the potential consequences of the poison their leader had instructed Eli to put in the water.
Aren and Eli received a sentence of ten years Island duty, and the four other men received four years of Island duty, the banishment to be carried out immediately.
Three boats were readied for the transportation to the island. The six men sat in the middle boat, tied to a tow ring in the stem of the boat away from the operator in the aft. The two other boats came manned by three people each, all armed, Maeve and Stan among them.
They headed out from the cove and into the bay. It was early afternoon when they reached Seal Island. A long dock sat at water’s edge, all made from rock. Halfway along the dock an iron gate blocked access with a chain and lock. Maeve’s boat docked first and they unlocked the gate and took the supplies they had carried along and placed them on the other side of the gate.
Every committee of every community who used this island had such a key. They did not want to worry about a surprise from prisoners as they dropped off supplies. So this afforded them a barrier, which had worked thus far.
No other prisoners appeared to be present on the island at the moment. Such an occurrence would not have made a difference. Once sentenced here, you were on your own.
Having unloaded the supplies, Maeve and her boat moved back a small ways from the dock. The second boat repeated the process. The prisoners received instructions to disembark and to go to the other side of the gate. The other two boats joined them at the dock and the gate was locked, the prisoners still in handcuffs on the other side.
Maeve faced them. “When I finish speaking with you, we’ll have you put your hands through the hole in the gate, and we’ll remove your handcuffs. No one else is on this island at the moment. This place is where most of our communities punish their most dangerous and heinous criminals. The island’s about two miles long and a quarter mile wide. No trees grow here; the surface is rock, sod, grass, and not much else.
“You know your sentence. If you wish to survive your time here you’ll listen carefully. The huts are made of stone and sealed with sod. The roofs are made of metal and will protect you from the elements; the pieces of metal have been cut into small enough pieces they cannot be used to create anything that will float. You’ll find a provision of coal and sod. The sod is more a turf and can be used as fuel. This peat is plentiful and I would suggest you begin to store for winter.
“We’ve left you fishing equipment and salt. I would recommend you also take advantage and begin to store for winter. A small pond and a natural spring can be found in the middle of the island, it’ll provide all the water you need.
“You’ll find no materials to make a raft. People before you have tried to swim. It’s doubtful your body could take the cold of the ocean for so long a swim this far north, but of course, you’re welcome to try. We’ve left you food provisions. They’re barely enough to sustain you for three months and certainly no variety. I suggest you learn to supplement by hunting birds and fishing. But once again what you wish to do is up to you.
“Ice packs will move in during the late winter months or early spring for a short time. You may be tempted to try and walk back. Such an endeavor would be a mistake. The trip would take you days, and shifting packs of ice might take you out to sea and not land. We’ll return every three months only to drop off a minimum of rations.”
Stan moved close to the fence and put his hands on the mesh. He looked at Aren and gave the gate a shake, which made Aren step back. “For nights to come I’ll sit and think of taking a boat ride to see you, my friend. Pray you don’t hear a boat coming your way in the middle of the night.”
With that the handcuffs were removed and the three boats headed back to North Face Cove.
Such a tragic necessity. Maeve understood the reasoning for the sentences; still the events reminded her that the road to heaven was most likely a dirt road. No matter how purposeful the journey, the dust still got in your mouth now and again.