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Slindon, West Sussex December 1st 1747
In the crowded bar of the Dog and Partridge, Richard Hawkins sat eating a supper of bread and cheese, unaware of the plot against him. He was a young labourer, and a new recruit to Dymer’s Hampshire gang. Minding his own business, he failed to recognise the four newcomers as they entered the bar.
Kingsmill and Ferial, flanked by Dymer and Carter, chose a table and sat down. “Which one is Hawkins?” they asked the serving girl who brought their drinks over. She looked at the four men, and realized that they were not here to pay a social call. She paused, and looked at the landlord for help, but Ferial grabbed her arm, and pulled her so her face was level with his. “I said which one is Hawkins?” he growled. She whimpered; the pain her arm and the fierce look on the big man’s face was scaring her. Trembling, she used her other hand to point out a man sitting on his own. After what seemed an age, Ferial grunted, and released his grip on her arm. On trembling legs, she walked back to the bar where her employer was watching this unfold with a stern look on his face.
“We didn’t see this” was all he offered by way of comfort, and he walked back into the kitchen, leaving the poor girl alone in the bar. She could feel the men’s eyes on her as they stood up, and, taking their drinks, walked across to the lone man, and sat down next to him.
“Hallo Ritchie,” Kingsmill said, but the words contained no warmth or friendliness, Hawkins saw the malice in their eyes, and knew he was in trouble instantly. “Time we had a little chat, just you and us”. Hawkins just nodded, terrified.
“Where were you today?” Ferial asked
“At work in the fields; there’s a wall that needs rebuilding, and I had the barn to see to; why?” Hawkins asked.
“Only, we put the word out, and you didn’t respond. And we are wondering why?”
“Look…I…” he began.
“Mr Carter here” he indicated the Chichester man,” assures me that our goods are short a couple of bags. And you were seen in Chichester, selling tea a couple of days ago.” Kingsmill came straight to the point.
“I never; you have it wrong. It was the Cockrels…ow!” he cried out as Ferial grabbed his arm roughly and twisted it behind him, pushing the man’s face into the table, scattering the remnants of the meal onto the floor. The inn went silent for a brief moment as the plate fell.
“Listen, we don’t like liars and we don’t like those with their sticky hands in the goods.” Kingsmill snapped. “You were seen the other day shooting your mouth off around Chichester, Mr Hawkins. What happens next is the Revenue pays us a visit, damn sure they will find their precious stolen goods. Way we see it; you have a lot to answer for. Come on Billy; let’s take him somewhere real quiet.” Kingsmill walked out the door, Ferial half carried; half dragged the protesting man out the door after him. The other drinkers quickly took turned back to their drinks and conversations, all knew the men on sight, and no one wished to intervene and risk the wrath of the gang.
Two Brothers on either side of the law. Tom Kingsmill, a notorious gazetted Smuggler, and his brother Arthur, the Revenue man sworn to stop him.
Set in 1740’s England and based on the real events leading to the downfall of the Hawkhurst Gang, This gritty novel follows the gang rise from the ashes of the Battle of Goudhurst, to their heyday when they ruled the South-east, with the revenue powerless to stop them.