Into the Game
by Pam and Del

 

PART FOUR

 

"Good morning, Charles." The cool voice, as always, sounded tinged with
ironic amusement.

"My lord." Latour, by contrast, was frostily civil.

Archie stopped buttoning his jacket, listening--and trying to keep his
stomach from crawling up his throat. *I am NOT going to vomit*. . .

"Still being polite?" Kilcarron observed. "Oh, dear. I *have* incurred your
displeasure."

"You. Made. My. Patient. Worse." Latour spoke with the icy austerity of one
pronouncing a death sentence.

"Which is regrettable. Will it appease you if I confess that I . . .
miscalculated?"

"Very little--since I am still dealing with the aftereffects."

"Nevertheless, he has recovered sufficiently to walk?"

"He has." Latour's tone was not encouraging.

Archie swallowed, remembering another voice, dry and harsh with age and
sickness. *Obey orders, do your duty, and no harm will come to you.*
Captaine Keene's admonition--wildly inadequate for an unprotected
twelve-year-old soon to be entrapped in Jack Simpson's web. And of no more
use five years later when Horatio came aboard--they'd shared a grim jest
about that, once.

But Kilcarron was not Keene. *Obey orders, do your duty, and no harm will
come to . . . *

*Him.* Archie forced himself to breathe calmly and evenly.

Kilcarron, urbane and immaculately dressed, appeared in the doorway. Blue
eyes scanned Archie from head to foot. "Time to go, Lazarus. There is
someone we must meet."

A verbal response did not seem to be necessary. Archie followed the earl out
of the infirmary and outside along a grassy slope. The morning air was cool,
the sky overcast--typical Scottish weather in early spring. At some distance
from the house, they approached a row of standing targets demarcating what
appeared to be a weapons practice range.

The man waiting for them at the end of the range was not in uniform, though
he wore his dark-green jacket and black trousers with the same air. He was
somewhere on the far side of thirty-five, tall and rangily built rather than
bulky; his short, unqueued hair was a tawny color between blond and brown.
His eyes were also tawny, one shade lighter than the hair. As he walked
toward them, Archie noticed a faint unevenness in the brisk stride.

"Good morning, my lord." Neither a Lowlands accent nor a Highlands one, but
a faint, north-country burr; one of the marine captains on the Indy had
sounded like that.

"Good morning, Carmichael. I've brought your new man." Kilcarron turned to
Archie.

"Mr. Carmichael will be your division leader, Lazarus. He's been on maps
with Rory for the last two days, Carmichael, so I suspect he's ready to be of
some use to you. Get to work, Lazarus--I'll be expecting a favorable report."

"Will you now?" Carmichael murmured to Kilcarron's receding back. He turned
back to study his new subordinate. "Lazarus?"

He did not miss the young man's angry flinching. "Don't like that, do you?"

A mask of impassivity was almost visibly pulled over the thin, pale face. A
small, guarded voice responded, "No, sir."

Carmichael exhaled audibly and thoughtfully. "We don't, as a rule, pry into
each other's private affairs much in the division, but . . ." No less a
strategist than Kilcarron, he let the silence dangle to the point of
discomfort.

"I was wounded," the new recruit said reluctantly. "Latour . . . "

"Ah." A total wealth of comprehension in one syllable. The young man
continued, despite his obvious discomfort.

"*He*," there was no further need for the name, "said he'd reclaimed my life,
since I'd thrown it away. And that its use was his, now."

"And called you Lazarus, to keep you mindful of it," Carmichael summed up.

A small, tight nod.

"That'd suit his filthy sense of humor. Right bastard, he is."

Jolted blue eyes widened and stared at him in astonishment.

"Oh, don't get me wrong," Carmichael said, warming to his subject. "He's the
best. Knows everything that's ever needed, and he'll get you out alive, which
is what we want, in this business. But he'll have you sweat for it, before
and after. Proper bloody bugger."

*****

That was not how one spoke of one's superior officers in the Navy! At least,
not if *you* were an officer too. The ratings, of course, said whatever they
liked below decks, among themselves. But he'd never heard a command officer
speaking with the same freedom. It was simultaneously disconcerting and
illuminating, to hear such an opinion given about Kilcarron.

"So if you don't like Lazarus, give us another one."

"Another what?" He'd missed something.

"A name to use." Carmichael sounded slightly impatient now, and Archie
winced, remembering the consequences of making Kilcarron impatient.

But--a name? His own surname was out of the question, he'd always disliked
his full first name and only tolerated the diminutive . . . suddenly all the
empty places were raw and bleeding again as he realized that he'd give half
his soul to hear his name spoken again by a familiar voice. The other half
of his soul, he acknowledged despairingly, would still be possessed by
Kilcarron.

But--he was in Scotland, at least, and in Scotland, Archies were three a
penny. So was a surname, for any Scot with the faintest claim to aristocratic
blood.

"Archie," he said finally, aware that Carmichael was still waiting. "Archie
Stewart."

Carmichael nodded. "Good enough." He looked Archie up and down with narrowed
eyes. "Can you shoot?"

God, he'd never felt so grateful to be able to answer. "Yes."

"Then we'll go look you out a gun."

*****

His skill with a pistol won approval; the rifle-work rather less.

"You have a good eye," Carmichael said thoughtfully, "but that's just a
trifle slow. We're not likely to need rifles a great deal, but regular
practice wouldn't hurt."

"How much faster?" Archie asked curiously.

"We'll see what you can do. Fast enough to pass for a soldier."

He'd *been* a soldier--what was special about the way that word was being
used? Archie thought back.

"Three rounds a minute?" he guessed, remembering something he had once heard
among the marines. A brief grin answered him.

"That'll do, for a start. Something to--concentrate on." Carmichael chose
his words carefully.

Archie eyed him sideways, appraisingly. "Were you . . .infantry?"

Another grin. "Among other things." He handed Archie back the rifle. "You
can put in some practice now."

After half-an-hour, Latour appeared, walking towards them along the perimeter
of the range.

"Good morning, doctor," Carmichael greeted him. "Were you looking for me?"

"For both of you," the physician answered. "So you wouldn't run my patient
into the ground the first day."

"Still your patient?" Carmichael looked consideringly at Archie, who tried
to look less weary than he felt. "I thought he'd recovered."

"Call it . . convalescence."

*Oh. That's what this is.* Archie remembered convalescence now. It was
horrible. You were no longer weak enough to be content staying in bed all
day, but neither were you strong enough to do anything else that you wanted.

Carmichael was speaking again. "How much longer?"

"A week or more. And it should be six weeks at least before he does any
riding."

Riding? He hadn't thought of that.

"Can you ride?" Carmichael was speaking to him now.

"Y-yes. What would I be riding?"

"Anything short of an elephant or a camel. And over any kind of terrain.
But you heard the doctor--not for six weeks yet."

"And I intend to see that my orders are obeyed," Latour finished. "I think
I've only had one other patient before who was so consistently uncooperative."

Archie jerked his head up, ready to protest, when he saw Latour's eyes were
not on him. Carmichael had assumed an expression of vast, impenetrable
blandness.

"I can't imagine who that might be," he replied, in what Archie realized must
be a long-standing private joke. "Take care of your patient, doctor. I'll
find you tomorrow," he added to Archie, by way of farewell. Collecting the
rifles, he sauntered easily off.

Latour watched him leave, then turned to his patient. "Go back and rest," he
directed firmly. "I'll be along to look in on you later. And I told Rory to
come for his lesson in the afternoon."

*****

"Oh, it's you." Latour opened the surgery door to the tap he had been
expecting, let Carmichael in. "Come about your new man, I expect."

"Ale for you." Carmichael put down a tankard, seated himself at the table in
the center of the room. "Whiskey for me." He took the flask out of his
jacket, nodded toward the door leading to the infirmary. "No chance he can
hear us, is there?"

Latour shook his head, pointed towards the ceiling. "He's in the study with
Rory."

"Then we can talk." Carmichael grinned. "What'd Old Nick not bother to tell
me?"

"How much has he told you already?" Latour inquired dryly, taking the chair
opposite his colleague.

"Here's your new man, Mr. Carmichael."

"No!" Latour exclaimed in disgust, saw the other man's grin widen, realized
he'd been tricked, and frowned fiercely.

"Damn' near. 'I have a new man for you, Carmichael, he should work out well
enough once he's trained.' Bloody officers. You realize he knows exactly
what both of us are doing right now."

"Undoubtedly," Latour agreed. He drank thoughtfully; Carmichael gave him a
sidelong glance.

"You and Kilcarron nicked him out of the Service, didn't you?"

Latour put down the tankard. "What makes you say that?"

Carmichael grinned again at his colleague's phrasing of the question.
"Yes-sir, no-sir, eyes-on-floor-sir? Gives the whole game away--it's what
you do when you don't know what else is safe to say. And officer-class--I
know that voice."

"Officer-class," Latour admitted. "But we didn't acquire him quite as
easily--or openly--as Kilcarron acquired *you*." It was a joke among the
longtime agents, that Kilcarron had "borrowed" Carmichael from the army and
never quite returned him. Carmichael let it pass.

"Where'd you pick him up?"

"Jamaica. You remember, Kilcarron went out there with Bonnard and Fontaine
to decide if Touissaint L'Ouverture would do us any good against Bonaparte.
I was supposed to meet them when I was finished with my work in the Colonies."

"I take it everyone showed up on time."

"With days to spare. And this matter of your new man had caught his attention
in the interim. He found my lodgings in Kingston, let himself in without
knocking--you know he never knocks--stood there in that icy way of his, like
a damned statue, and then said, 'Charles.'" Latour paused, reliving the
moment, then declared darkly, "I *know* that tone. I *hate* that tone!"

His listener, who had heard the physician addressed in precisely the manner
described, promptly lost his composure. Latour glowered.

"'Charles. I have a task for you.' As cool as if he were discussing the
weather or ordering a new pair of boots."

Carmichael stopped laughing and tried to assume a sympathetic expression.
"That tricky a proposition, was it?"

"Extremely. We had to slip him out of a prison infirmary."

Carmichael raised surprised brows. "He hardly seems the type."

"It was a matter much in dispute at the time. The authorities might have kept
better track of him if they'd expected him to survive."

"Ah. Now we come to it." Carmichael's eyes narrowed. "He was really at
death's door, then?"

"Oh, yes. He had a one in four--well, one in *three*, perhaps--chance of
surviving the surgery. But without it, he'd not have lived out the day."

"What was the wound, exactly?"

"Pistol ball--lodged right here." Latour touched the approximate location on
Carmichael's own torso. "Very difficult position: abdomen, lower chest, and
lung all sustained some damage. That damned previous surgeon had left the
ball in and laid him flat in bed instead of propping him up. Once he was in
my care, I removed the ball along with some foreign matter, mended what I
could as cleanly as I could--and got out of there. After the infection
drained, I sewed everything closed and bound him up again until the incision
healed."

Carmichael, looking slightly pale, took a long drink from his flask. But his
prior acquaintance with Latour was quite lengthy; he rallied enough to
comment. "It must have taken hours."

"There was almost no margin for error. We kept him heavily sedated during
the surgery, and for some days after. Mandragora and opium, mainly."

"And that's how you got him out of the infirmary?"

Latour rubbed a hand over his face. "No. That was a different trick
altogether. We didn't take him out sedated--we took him out *dead.* Or so
the authorities believed."

Carmichael stared, incredulous. "That's one I haven't heard yet."

"And you may not again--I'm not sure I have the courage to use it a second
time."

"Now I *have* to hear about this."

"If you must." Latour pushed back his chair, stood up, and walked to the
other side of his surgery. Unlocking one of the cabinets, he drew out a
glass jar and brought it back to the table.

"What's this?" Carmichael asked, studying the lumpy, tarry mass inside the jar

"An extract of a New World plant--used in arrow poisons." Latour gave the
jar and its contents a darkling look. "I advise you not to touch it,
Carmichael. Especially if you have any open cuts or scratches on your hands."

"Bloody hell!" Carmichael shook his head. "Where'd you get something that
strong?"

"From a colleague. You remember I was in Boston six months ago, on official
business. I ran into an old acquaintance there--a naturalist who's spent the
last few years in South America. I'd read about this--La Condamine mentioned
it in the 1750s--but he actually had the stuff with him and told me how he'd
seen it work." He continued, in answer to Carmichael's look of inquiry.

"It acts upon the muscles, almost like a paralytic. Eyes, ears, extremities
are first to feel the effect. In a large enough dosage, it can slow the
breathing, even arrest it completely, although the heart continues to beat.
The victim usually dies of suffocation."

Carmichael exhaled audibly. "Reversible?"

"Oddly enough, yes. Salt or tobacco can neutralize the effects. And if
respiration can be restored quickly, the victim generally makes a full
recovery. It's just--harrowing for all concerned."

"But it worked well enough on *him*?"

Latour nodded. "I'd spent the last six months trying to develop a dilute
form that was safe enough to use consistently. But my experiments had
yielded only partial success. We used the merest trace of it to produce the
effect we needed--and I still had the devil's own time reviving him!" He
grimaced, remembering the experience.

"First the appearance of death, then the resuscitation, then the surgery
itself, then the recovery--we almost lost him more times than I care to think
about. Only Crawford of Kilcarron," Latour said with barely suppressed
violence, "would require me to minister to a man three-quarters dead, spirit
him out of a prison infirmary under the noses of guards and grieving friends,
and perform delicate surgery on him, all under conditions of the deepest
secrecy!" He scowled ferociously. "If he ever requires me to perform under
such circumstances again, I shall certainly quit his service!"

Carmichael smothered a grin. "*After* you completed the surgery, of course!"

"Of course." Latour glanced at him sourly. "And this was only the
*physical* injury."

"Now for the rest of it," Carmichael said softly, his eyes speculative.

Latour sighed. "Among physicians--we believe that the mind exerts a powerful
influence over the body. The spirit, as well. And I have been very
concerned about his spirit for this last month, and more. He doesn't speak
of it, but he grieves, I think, for the life he left behind. I believe it
has delayed his full recovery. And his state of health has not been improved
by--"

"Old Nick," Carmichael finished the statement without the least degree of
surprise.

Latour's face darkened again. "My patient received three visits from his
lordship. The first encounter left him much distressed--although that could
hardly be helped. The second visit left him angry and sullen, but that, too,
I could deal with. But the third . . ." his voice trailed off.

*****

// Latour came into the cabin and stopped, aghast. The restless, unhappy but
recovering patient he had left half-an-hour ago was now a young man on the
verge of physical shock. His face was as drained of color as if he had been
bled for three days, the blue eyes were wide, stunned, and unfocused. Long,
bone-deep shivers racked his whole body, and when Latour touched his
forehead, he found both skin and hair slightly damp.

Cursing, Latour flung the door open and began roaring out orders for blankets
and hot drinks . . . //

*****

"For two days I feared for his reason," Latour told Carmichael. "He wouldn't
speak, he wouldn't weep--just shivered, like someone with the ague. . . "

"And you reckon it was Old Nick's doing."

"I've seen him push men, Carmichael; we both have. I've seen him *break*
them, when he thought it was necessary. This--" Latour shook his head.
"This was a mistake."

"And how is he now?"

"Fragile. Even the wound seems to be healing more slowly. He's sleeping,
but not well, and eating, but not really enough. And his dreams have
troubled him. He won't talk about those, either. For a time, he tried not
to sleep at all, in order to avoid them."

"I don't imagine you stood for that."

"I've given him sedatives, to avoid the dreams, but it's only a temporary
solution."

"So let's see if I understand this," Carmichael said, after a long pause.
"Old Nick had you stitch him back up in Kingston. Then *he* broke him into
little pieces. Then he put him in my division."

"You speak as though that were unusual," Latour said dryly. "What will you do
about it?"

Carmichael began to list the inventory. "Body wounded, but healing. Spirit,
troubled." He paused, then looked up with the air of one making a discovery.
"Engage the mind."

"Kilcarron was trying that aboard ship."

"But Old Nick's a deal too fond of pulling on that chain. You can train a
dog that way--or you can break its neck."

"Which will you choose?"

"There's another way." Carmichael grinned. "Hold the chain and run with
it. And I think my legs are better than Old Nick's. Even better, I know
where we can start."

"Where would that be?"

"Right here." Carmichael nodded at the surgery around them. "They say 'out
of sight, out of mind.' Get him out from under Old Nick's roof, and out from
under Old Nick's thumb. It's got to be some help--if he's well enough, of
course," he finished, with a questioning look at Latour.

The physician nodded, after a moment's thought. "I can look in on him at the
lodge, if that's what you have in mind. Will you tell Kilcarron?"

Carmichael shrugged. "No need for that. I'll just say it's better for his
training. And Rory," he added, "can start *his* field training. It's not
that much more work to teach two instead of one, and sometimes it's better
strategy. "

"Won't it take longer?"

"They say we're at peace, remember, doctor? That gives us the time."

"Kilcarron doesn't think it will last."

"I'm sure he's right. But tell me," Carmichael paused. "I only got back
last night. What's the word been from the London folk?"

"Dispatches every day, is what I've heard."

"How long do you think we have?"

"They should want him in London within the next two or three weeks."

"Which will give us more chance to put your patient back together. And he
can concentrate on recovering." Carmichael shook his head. "He looks ill,
even now. Like a spring breeze would knock him over."

"That may be so, but I've something of interest to share with you. Rory
behaves for him."

"*Does* he?" Carmichael smiled broadly, eyes lighting up. "Tell me more
about this, then."

 

END PART FOUR