Chapter 1

#Treachery

Bridgid had spotted the boy they were looking for sitting on a pyramid of barrels that awaited loading aboard MOHONGO.  Now, Liam was searching for him and, sure enough, there he was, still sitting atop the barrels.  As he pressed through the milling crowd, still looking up, the sun’s reflection from an upstairs window caught the corner of his eye.  As he moved to change the angle of the sun’s reflection, he saw two men standing at a second floor window looking down on the wharf.  The taller man was elegantly dressed, bearded and was smoking a cigar.  The other man, of a more compact build, wore a suit that had seen its better days.  The taller man was talking, obviously giving orders.  The other man nodded in agreement.  Curious, diverted momentarily from his main task, Liam watched the men in the upper window.  He thought, “I wish I could hear what they’re saying.”  As he was wondering, the shorter man looked down and spied Liam staring at him.  For a few seconds they locked eyes.  Uncomfortable at being caught, Liam averted his eyes and looked away.  He returned to his task of looking for the boy.  He soon forgot his curiosity and his disquieting eye contact with the shabby little man.

In the second floor office, the two men were conversing. 

Mr. McNaughton was a wealthy Belfast linen merchant and absentee landlord.  His appearance spoke volumes of self-assured arrogance and power.  As a loyal agent of the Crown, he was proud of himself because he was directly responsible for the emigration of most of the passengers waiting on the wharf.  His manipulations were the cause of their being forcibly relocated to America.

Imperiously, he addressed the shorter man, “Now Conley, I’ll go over this one more time.  You are to tell people you are from Castlebar in County Mayo.  Most of the passengers are from County Donegal with a few from Derry and Sligo.  OK?  People on the ship won’t know Castlebar, so they won’t be suspicious.  Repeat to me what you’ll say when they ask you where you’re from.”

“Aye, sir, I’ll tell ‘em I was a clerk for the landlord.  He accused me of stealing from him and if I stayed in Castlebar, he would’ve had me thrown in jail.”

“They’ll ask you if you did it.  And what will you say?”

“Oh no, I never stole a farthing.”

“Grand.”

Pausing, Mr. McNaughton gave his last official letter of passage to Conley.  It granted the right to travel aboard MOHONGO to a single male named Patrick Duffy from Castlebar, County Mayo.

Conley accepted the letter of passage, looked at it, frowned and said, “Mr. McNaughton, sir, this isn’t for me.  It’s for Patrick Duffy.  I’m Conley.”

“Conley, sometimes it’s not a good idea to ask questions.”

“Aye, sir.”

“But I’ll tell you anyway and let this be a warning.  I originally chose Patrick Duffy to do my bidding and go on this voyage.  He was to stir up trouble among the passengers.  The bloke refused me.  Can you believe that?  He said it wasn’t right.  He even threatened me.  He said he’d go to the McCorkell offices and tell them of my plot.  He thought he could defy me and get away with it.” 

Pausing, to let his words sink in, he emphasized Duffy’s fate.  “Poor slime. He met a sad and untimely end.” 

Continuing, he said, “Oh, well, that’s all water under the bridge.  I believe in you, Conley, and that’s why I’ve chosen you to take his place.  You’re now the new Patrick Duffy.  You have always obeyed me and I know you won’t disappoint me now.

“Remember, what you must do during the voyage is to stir up distrust and confusion.  Spread lies and gossip.  Criticize them falsely.  Make the passengers turn against the Captain and crew and, more important, against each other.  Now, get down there and show your letter of passage to the McCorkell Line agent and go aboard.  I’m depending on you to make the voyage miserable.  Don’t forget, you’re to start them fighting among themselves.  You’re my man.  My goal is to do anything I can to those treasonous Irish to cause them trouble and disruption.”

Nervously and somewhat fearful, Conley nodded agreement and held the letter of passage between two fingers as if he feared it would catch fire.

Mr. McNaughton withdrew a sealed envelope from his inside coat pocket.  “When you arrive in Baltimore, show this other letter to my agent there.  He’ll reward you handsomely for your service to the Crown.  But let no one on the ship see it.  If you lose it or show it to anyone, the jig will be up.”

With that, Mr. McNaughton handed him the sealed envelope, pivoted smartly on his heel and was gone.  Conley, now known as Patrick Duffy, left the upstairs office and set out, obediently, to do as he was told.