Jamaica, North Coast, between Trelawney and Ocho Rios, 1758
Renn leaned forward on his horse and peered into the thick jungle. He could see the small stream exiting the tropical forest. Next he leaned back and smiled at the two men who were assisting him.
“The jungle is too thick. My guess is that the nigger is working his way up the stream. He can’t be far ahead of us now. No food, and he is exhausted. We follow the stream and we get him,” Renn said.
Renn poked his horse with his heels and the mount began moving up the stream. The two men followed. The man bringing up the rear was towing a mule, its back empty.
Two hours later, the trio caught up with the runaway slave. He was laying on the ground at the base of a large tree. He was exhausted. He never heard the trio approach. Exhaustion will do that to a man.
Renn dismounted. His two henchmen stayed on their horses. Renn grabbed an ugly whip from his pommel, uncoiled it, and placed a wicked blow on the slave’s back. The man screamed, writhed in pain, and looked at Renn. Renn hit him again, this time catching him on the legs.
Renn kicked the slave in the ribs, twice. “So much for nigger witch juju,” he stated, and laughed. Then he spit on the slave’s head.
“Off your horses, you two!” Renn shouted at his men. “Let’s get this runaway tied and over the back of the mule. We need to get him back to Sir Richard and collect our fee.”
The two men dismounted. They grabbed the slave and bound his hands and feet. One of the men gave the slave some water to sip. As they were dragging him to the mule, Renn had them hold him erect. He whipped the man three more times, across the back. There were two ugly bruises and one welt. Next the men placed the slave over the back of the mule, like a sack of flour, and mounted.
They headed back down the stream toward the exit from the thick forest. From there they could follow the road to Sir Richard’s plantation. The man leading the mule decided that, after he had gotten his pay, he was going to book passage on the next ship out of Trelawney and head back to England.
The slave had been returned to Sir Richard. Next Renn had gone to Ocho Rios, where he spent his reward money at an inn with lots of rum and a whore with big tits. He got a room and took the whore and his whip up to the room. He had his way with the woman. Drunk, and his passion sated, Renn laid on his back, smelling the sweet incense in the room and watching the flickering shadows on the walls cast by the light of the candles.
The whore got out of bed and put on her robe. Renn reached for her, first with the whip and next with his arms. She giggled, and exited. Renn watched her leave. He watched the changing shadows caused by the candles and then he reached for the rum. He drank some more.
One of the wavering shadows seemed to solidify. It steadied, and then gained both substance and form. Renn took a sip of rum and cocked his head. The shadow appeared to be that of a man, kneeling. It appeared to be a black man. Renn got out of bed, grabbed his whip, and grinned. He wondered what it would be like to whip a solid shadow. He took another swig of rum and uncoiled the whip.
The shadow stood, turned, and faced Renn. It looked exactly like the slave Renn had beaten and returned to Sir Richard. But its face did not display fear. It displayed rage. Blind, uncontrollable hatred and rage. And it moved slowly, across the floor, towards a drunken and shocked Renn.
Renn cocked his wrist and swung the whip. The whip passed through the body of the shade. The shade did not pause in its very slow and steady advance. Renn flicked the whip again, and this time the shade grasped it. It pulled Renn close.
"No! No! Go away! No! Cannot be!" Renn shouted, as the shadow, now not shadow but having the form and substance of a black slave, stood next to him. "You're not real! You're a bad dream!"
The innkeeper found Renn the next morning. He was laying on the bed, naked. His chest had some ugly bruises and welts, as though he had been whipped. His eyes were soulless, and wide open, staring at the ceiling. And jammed into his throat was the handle of his whip.