GOING HOME, Part Seven
by Tracy J.

CHAPTER SIXTY ONE

 

Pellew pulled the blanket off his bunk and Horatio eased Archie onto it. "Make him comfortable, Mr. Hornblower." The captain ordered.

Yes, sir." Horatio untied Archie's queue and smoothed his hair so it would not be gathered at the back of his neck. Then, he undid the clasp on the cloak and unbuttoned Archie's jacket and waistcoat. He untied Archie's neckerchief, the one he had tied only hours ago. He helped Archie sit up and pulled the cloak away, then took the jacket and waistcoat off. Horatio eased Archie back down, then removed his shoes and gathered the jacket, waistcoat, and cloak, putting them on the floor at the foot of the bunk.

As the captain put the blanket over Kennedy, Hepplewhite came in. Pellew turned to him, "Mr. Kennedy collapsed on deck.

"One of his fits." Hepplewhite commented, sounding disgusted.

"No...." Archie said weakly, clutching his belly.

"It was not a fit, doctor." Pellew told him, "He has a fever and other symptoms."

Hepplewhite walked over to the bunk and Horatio moved to give him room. As the doctor put his hand on Kennedy's forehead, Pellew was stunned by the looked that came to Kennedy's face; distrust - betrayal? If the captain was reading it correctly.

Hepplewhite took Archie's wrist in his hand and, after a few moments, said, "Well, it could be he collapsed because of the fever. I'll bleed him."

Archie moaned and closing his eyes. Horatio reached over to comfort him by stroking his shoulder. Archie opened his eyes and looked at his friend, pleadingly.

"Captain!" Leahy burst through the door.

"I'm sorry, sir!" Pellew's guard grabbed Leahy from behind, "He pushed past me."

"What is the meaning of this?!" Pellew demanded.

"Captain, I think I know what is wrong with Mr. Kennedy." Leahy said urgently, then glanced over to where Hepplewhite was preparing Archie's arm, "NO! You'll kill him!"

"What?!" Pellew stared at the young doctor, while Hornblower felt his heart skip a beat.

Archie tried to pull his arm away from Hepplewhite, but was too weak.

"Don't let him be bled, captain." Leahy warned quietly, "He won't survive it."

Hepplewhite released Kennedy's arm and stood with his hand on his hips, "What makes you think you know what this is?"

"Here it is!" Another man came into the cabin carrying a doctor's bag and stopped dead as Pendleton raised his musket at him.

Archie reached for Horatio and begged weakly, "Please....don't let....me die!"

Horatio leaned down to catch Archie's hand, "I won't, Archie."

"Mr. Kennedy, what are your symptoms?" Leahy asked.

"I feel weak." Which was evident in Kennedy's voice, "My heart....is beating too....hard. My throat....and my head....have been....hurting since I....woke up this....morning, and.....my....belly h-hurts."

"Like cramps?"

"Yes." Archie sobbed, "I feel sore....everywhere. And I'm so....so cold."

"And he has a fever." Pellew added.

Leahy turned back to Pellew, "Sir, his heart beating too hard, stomach cramps, and trouble breathing - those symptoms are the same symptoms one would have if they mixed and took those medications that were stolen. He will die if you don't let me try to help him."

Pellew suddenly remembered Kennedy suggesting the medications were stolen for the purpose of suicide and felt as if he had been hit with a cannon ball! Why would he do this? Did I put too much pressure on the boy?

"Sir, please let me help him!" Leahy pleaded softly.

Pellew eyed the young doctor a moment, then ordered, "Michaels, release Dr. Leahy."

"Doctor?!" Hepplewhite stayed where he was, "He's not old enough to be a doctor!"

"I've been a doctor long enough to know that bleeding is not the only way to treat a patient for a fever." Leahy stated as he took the box from the man who was still as gun point, "Thank you, Angus."

Pellew gestured to Pendleton, who lowered his weapon.

"I need a cup of water, captain." Leahy said urgently.

The other man, Angus McLoud if the captain remembered correctly, glanced at Kennedy, then back to Leahy, "What else can I do?"

Leahy mixed something with the water, then turned to the servant, "Could you please get me a bucket? Angus, come with me."

Leahy walked over to the bunk, but Hepplewhite refused to move. "Sir," Leahy said pleadingly, "every moment that goes by, more poison gets into Mr. Kennedy's blood, and brings him closer to death."

"Poison?!" Hornblower's startled voice drowned out Kennedy's weaker one.

"Yes." Leahy said, "So please move out of the way, before it's too late."

"Hepplewhite, move!" Pellew ordered.

Hepplewhite hesitated a moment, then stepped aside.

"Help him up and support him, Angus." Leahy told McLoud, who nodded and slipped his arm behind Kennedy, ignoring the flinch and helped him up. He could feel the boy shaking, and wrapped his arms around him in a comforting manner.

"Now, Mr. Kennedy," Leahy's voice was soft and kind, "I want you to take a deep breath, then drink this down as fast as you can. Understand?"

"Yes, sir." Archie was still panting, but drank it. "Ahh!" He groaned weakly as he gasped for breath, "That's....awful!"

"Sometimes, the cure seems worse then the illness." Leahy smiled, then nodded to McLoud, who gently eased Kennedy back down. McLoud smiled at the acting lieutenant as he brushed Archie's hair away from his eyes, then gave his cheek a gentle pat before moving away.

Leahy sat down and put his hand on Archie's forehead. Then took Archie's wrist and pulled out his timepiece, "Your heart is beating hard. It's also fast. Of course, being poisoned can be very frightening." Leahy said lightly with a wink and flashed the boy a grin. Then, he reached down and felt Archie's throat, "Your glands are swollen."

Leahy looked at Kennedy very seriously as he took Archie's hand, "Now in a few moments, Mr. Kennedy, you are going to become very nauseous. I don't want you to hold it back, though. I want everything out of your belly and what you just drank should help achieve that. Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir." Archie whispered.

"Good." Leahy rubbed the back of Archie's hand and looked up at Horatio, "I'm sure he would like your company, Mr. Hornblower." Leahy stood, still holding Kennedy's hand and waited until Horatio stood in front of him. Then he place the trembling hand on Hornblower's and walked back to the captain as Horatio sat down on the edge of the bunk.

"Is he going to be all right." Pellew asked.

"Your pray so?" Hepplewhite turned on him, "You said he would!"

"Hepplewhite!" Pellew glared at the surgeon.

"This is the only chance he has." Leahy stated, quietly, "I just pray it's not too late."

Hepplewhite shook his head and stalked out the door.

Pellew turned to the two marines, "Gentlemen, you are dismissed."

Michaels looked sadly at Kennedy, then saluted, and left the cabin, "Yes, sir."

Pendleton followed suit, with one last glance at Kennedy before leaving.

"What exactly are you trying to do?" Pellew turned to the young doctor.

"To get everything Mr. Kennedy has consumed out of his stomach." Leahy answered, "And hopefully the poison will come up with it."

 

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CHAPTER SIXTY TWO

 

Leahy's drink did indeed empty Kennedy's stomach. Unfortunately, some of it ended up on Archie's shirt sleeve and Hornblower's breeches. "I'm sorry....Horatio." Archie whispered weakly, holding his stomach.

"It will wash out." Horatio smiled.

Archie managed an apologetic smile.

"Mr. Hornblower," Pellew said, "you had best change out of those breeches."

"Yes, sir."

Leahy pulled the blanket down and reached for the buttons on Kennedy's shirt. Archie clutched his shirt with both hands and said weakly, "No."

"I won't hurt you, Mr. Kennedy." Leahy's tone was gentle.

"No." Archie insisted, breathlessly.

"I'll help him, doctor." Horatio came forward.

Kennedy's eyes met Leahy's for a brief moment, then Archie quickly turned his gaze away. Leahy gave Hornblower a nod and moved away.

When Horatio leaned down to undo his friend's shirt, Archie whispered, "No, Horatio. They'll see....the scars."

"It's all right, Archie." Horatio said quietly, pulling the blanket back up over Archie's chest, "We'll keep the blanket up so they won't see them." Then he put his hands on Archie's, "Trust me."

Archie nodded and started to undo the buttons.

"I'll do that, Archie." Horatio moved Archie's hands aside and began to unbutton his shirt.

"Don't you get....tired of taking care....of me?" Archie asked, his voice sounding more weak then before.

"No." Horatio smiled at him, "You're my friend. I care about you." Horatio pulled Archie up, against himself, then worked the shirt up over Archie's head and arms, and managed to keep the blanket up, so no one could see the scars on Archie's belly. He eased Archie back down and pulled the blanket up to his chin, "I'll go and change, and bring you a clean shirt when I come back."

"Please hurry, H'ratio." Archie whispered weakly, reaching for his hand, "I don't....want to be....alone."

"I'll be back as quickly as I can." Horatio caught his friend's hand and brushed Archie's hair back from his eyes, giving him a reassuring smile. When Archie's eyes closed, Horatio lay Archie's arm across his middle and gave his shoulder a quick pat, then hurried out of the cabin, not wanting to leave him alone for long.

Seeing the fear on that flushed young face, Pellew walked over to the bunk and sat down on the edge. As he took the boy's hand, Archie's eyes opened and he struggled to focus them on the captain. "I-I'm....sorry, sir." Archie whispered.

Pellew frowned, "For what?"

"For re...rendering....myself unfit....for duty, sir." Archie whispered.

Immediately, Pellew wished he had never said that to Kennedy this morning. "It's quite all right, Mr. Kennedy. You're going to be all right."

Archie wanted to believe that, but he was so weak, and hurt everywhere. And his heart was pounding so hard it hurt.

Pellew thought of his own children and, in his weakened, trembling state, Kennedy looked like a frightened child. The captain leaned forward and began to gently stroke Kennedy's brow, silently praying the boy would not die.

With an effort, Archie gave the captain a weak smile.

Pellew smiled back, "I have no intention of losing you again, Mr. Kennedy. Good officers are hard to come by. Officers such as you are a blessing."

Moved by the captain's words, and he struggled to keep his composure as he whispered, "Thank....you, sir." He swallowed, then winced.

"You're throat hurts when you swallow?" Leahy asked.

Archie nodded, then asked weakly, "Because of my....being in the....rain with....out my cloak this morning?"

"No." Leahy said gently, "You said your throat and head were hurting when you awoke, which means you were already ill before you awoke."

Still stroking the boy's hair, Pellew said gently, "Don't fret, lad. You'll not be charged for becoming ill. You have my word on that." The captain saw Kennedy relax a bit at that.

Leahy crouched down and said softly, "Close your eyes and sleep, Mr. Kennedy."

"No!" Archie whimpered, his voice a mere whisper, "I don't want to....to die in my sleep!"

"You won't die, lad." Leahy put his hand on Kennedy's face, "I never make a promise that I cannot keep. But I promise you, you will not die. The sleep will help. I will not lie to you, Mr. Kennedy."

Archie couldn't argue. He just didn't have the strength. He turned his gaze to his captain, who gave him a reassuring smile, then Archie's eyes fluttered and closed.

"That's it, Mr. Kennedy," Leahy softly soothed, keeping his hand on the young officer's cheek, "Go to sleep."

Archie weakly gripped Pellew's hand as if he were trying to hold on to life itself. Edward returned the gesture with a gentle squeeze of his own and said softly, "I'll be right here, Mr. Kennedy." Archie squeezed the captain's hand again in acknowledgement and Pellew continued to hold the boy's hand while gently stroking his hair.

 

When Archie finally fell asleep, Pellew pulled the blanket down to put Kennedy's arm under it and froze.

"What ha....?!" Leahy looked at the scars, then at the captain, "Floggings?!"

McLoud hurried to the bunk and was stunned.

Horrified, Edward Pellew stared at the scars in silence, No wonder he did not want his shirt taken from him!

"I thought floggings were supposed to be on the back?" Leahy frowned.

"They are." Pellew answered numbly.

Leahy shook his head, "There are some on his sides too."

While McLoud stood speechless, Leahy leaned down for a closer look at them, "These look like they were made about five - maybe six - years ago."

Pellew stared at the scars in shock. They were not punishments administered by the Navy. And if they were five or six years old, that would mean this was done when Kennedy was serving on Justinian. And twelve. Dear God, this what Simpson did to him! The captain felt a sudden surge of nausea.

Still looking at the scars closely, Leahy commented, "Most of these are curved, but some are straight."

"The cat made the curved scars." Pellew said, "And straight ones were probably made by the cane."

Leahy continued to examine Kennedy's scars, "This scar looks like stab wound. It was very deep. This round one looks like a burn." Then looked up at the captain, "What happened to this boy?!"

Archie softly moaned and rolled over on his side toward the captain.

"Damn!" McLoud shuddered, "Look at the ones on his back!"

Pellew stood to see Kennedy's back, which was covered with scars, most as old as the ones on his stomach and sides, but some more recent.

"How many times was this boy punished?!" McLoud asked.

"I only know of him being punished by the navy once." Pellew said, "But it was when he was a child, and was done on his backside with a cane according to his record."

 

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CHAPTER SIXTY THREE

 

The door opened slightly and Bracegirdle peeked in, "Sir? The passengers would like to know what Mr. Kennedy has. They are concerned for their children."

"Mr. Kennedy's condition is not contagious." Leahy said.

At that, Bracegirdle walked into the cabin, "Is he going to be all right?"

"If he makes it through the night." Leahy sighed.

"Is he that....?" Bracegirdle caught sight of the scars, "Sir! What happened to him?"

"They are five or six years old." Pellew stated.

"How many times....?" Bracegirdle couldn't bring himself to finish his sentence.

"I can't tell." Pellew was not certain he wanted to know.

Horatio hurried into the cabin, carrying his jacket and Archie's shirt, then stopped dead as he saw everyone looking at Archie.

Pellew glanced up as Hornblower came through the door and saw the look on the boy's face, "You know about these."

Horatio swallowed and quickly said, "He was flogged for his escape attempts, sir."

"Some of these are too old to have been done when he was in prison." Pellew said carefully and Hornblower lowered his head, "Five or six years old. And he only tried to escape five times. There are scars on his belly and sides too. Most of these happened to him while he served on Justinian." He paused a few moments, but was unable to see the Horatio's face because of his lowered head. When Hornblower remained silent, the captain asked, "Simpson's handiwork?"

Closing his eyes, Horatio stifled a groan.

"Who did this to him, lieutenant?" Leahy said gently, "And why?"

Horatio glanced up at the doctor.

"I can't help him if I don't know what happened to him, Mr. Hornblower." Leahy stated.

Pellew stared at him, "For his sake, we need to know. I've caused a lot of memories to come back for him without meaning to. I do not want him to hurt, Mr. Hornblower. Please tell me what you know."

Horatio took a deep breath and chose his words carefully, "I had been put in the rigging for fighting. The next morning, Mr. Kennedy helped Mr. Clayton get me to the sick berth after I was released. That was the last time I had seen Mr. Kennedy that day. After being released the next morning, I found that Mr. Kennedy was not on deck or in the midshipmen's berth, and decided to look for him." He paused and took another deep breath, then said slowly, "I found him in the hold. Bloody and unconscious."

Bracegirdle briefly closed his eyes, while Leahy and McLoud looked down at the sleeping officer. Pellew kept his eyes on his young lieutenant's, not missing the pain in them as the boy spoke.

"I took him to the sick berth," Horatio continued, "but he did not wake up that morning. When he finally did awake that afternoon, Mr. Kennedy refused to tell me what happened. But I knew that Simpson had beaten him because he had helped me. I suspected then that Simpson had been hurting him for quite some time, though Mr. Kennedy never let it show. I never saw Simpson touch him, but I....always knew when Simpson had. Archie would be very quiet and withdrawn. I started trying to keep Archie close to me. As long as we were together, Simpson would not hurt him." Horatio sighed heavily, "But I never saw the scars until we were in prison, sir. I found them when he was ill, and realized that Simpson had done that to him, but I never asked. And Mr. Kennedy had never spoken to me of Simpson or Justinian..........until yesterday."

"He told you about them yesterday?" Bracegirdle asked.

"He had fallen asleep and dropped his shirt on the floor." Horatio told him, "When he awoke, he was humiliated to find that I knew about them."

"I can see why!" McLoud commented breathlessly, shaking his head.

"That's when Mr. Kennedy told me Simpson had done this to him." Horatio said, "but he gave no details, sir."

Pellew closed his eyes, No wonder the boy shudders every time Justinian or Simpson are mentioned!

Horatio was wishing he could have brought the shirt before anyone saw the scars. He knew how ashamed Archie was of them, and how humiliated he would be if he knew THAT everyone, especially the captain, knew about them. He had to cover up those scars, "I need to put this on him."

Leahy shook his head, "If his fever worsens, he'll only end up needing another shirt. Best not to put it on him yet."

Horatio clenched his jaw, It was bad enough that Archie had to have a fit in front of the captain and Bracegirdle. Now, he has to have his worst nightmare known to them? And two strangers?

Kennedy clutched his stomach and moaned. Leahy reached down and pulled the blanket over Archie's shoulders, then gently stroked Kennedy's brow until the boy relaxed. Leahy put the back of his fingers on Kennedy's cheek, then said, "Captain, I need as many blankets as I can get."

Pellew gave a nod to his servant, who hurried from the cabin.

Archie whimpered again and Pellew asked, "Is there anything you can do to ease his pain?"

"No." Leahy sighed, "If I give him something for the pain, it will mix with the other medicines and kill him."

"So, we cannot make him a little more comfortable." Horatio gazed back down at Kennedy. The pain he was in could be seen on Archie's face, and Horatio's chest tightened in sympathy.

"Poor lad." Pendleton muttered softly.

"Yes." Pellew breathed.

"So, how did this happen?" When everyone turned to stare at him, McLoud said, "How did that concoction get in him?"

"Probably in the drink he had." Leahy leaned against the wall.

"How did they get into the drink?" McLoud asked.

As if he were talking to an idiot, Leahy said very slowly, "Because someone put them in it." Then, folding his arms across his chest, Leahy said in irritation, "Will you stop acting like a lawyer?"

"Could you stop acting like a doctor?" McLoud gave the younger man a look that stopped any challenge. Then shrugged, "Besides, it stands to reason that whoever stole those medicines, stole them for the purpose of killing Mr. Kennedy."

That realization hit the other men like a cannon blast. Someone had tried to kill Kennedy!

"So," McLoud began to pace, "when was the poison put in the cup?"

Leahy looked thoughtful a moment, "Once mixed, the medicines work fast. It would have to have been put his cup when he was telling the children the story."

"Everyone's attention was on him and the story." McLoud mused, "No one was looking at the cup. Perfect!"

When everyone glared at him, the lawyer slowly spread his hands in the air, "Perfect chance for our murderer to slip the poison into the cup without anyone noticing."

"Murderer?" Michaels frowned.

"That is what you call someone who kills another human being." McLoud informed the young man, "Fortunately for Mr. Kennedy, Dalen was here."

The look Leahy gave McLoud did not express the same sentiment.

McLoud rolled his eyes and sighed heavily, "This was not your fault."

"They were my medicines." The self reproach could be hear in Leahy's voice.

"Did you mix them?" McLoud asked.

Leahy took a deep breath and said sternly, "No."

"Did you put them in Mr. Kennedy's drink?" McLoud raised his brow.

With a huff, Leahy sounded irritated when he answered, "You know I didn't"

"Then stop assuming responsibility for it." McLoud told him.

 

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CHAPTER SIXTY FOUR

 

A knock came to the door. Pellew called, "Come."

Cleveland walked in, "Captain, sir. Mr. Taylor sent me to ask if Mr. Kennedy's condition is contagious, sir."

The captain turned to Bracegirdle, "Mr. Bracegirdle, tell the passengers and crew that...."

"No!"

Pellew glared angrily at McLoud, "I beg your pardon?"

"Captain, can these men be trusted?" McLoud asked.

"Yes." Pellew nodded.

"Aside from those of us in this room," McLoud said, "and that doctor who was here earlier, no one knows of Mr. Kennedy's true condition. If we let everyone believe that he is ill, the only one who will be surprised when he recovers, will be the man who poisoned him."

"Poisoned him!" Cleveland frowned. One look form the captain silenced the midshipman.

"So, what do I tell everyone then?" Bracegirdle asked.

Easing Kennedy onto his back, Leahy sat down on the edge of the bunk and put his ear to the acting lieutenant's chest. Then felt his throat again and took his pulse. Finally, Leahy turned to the first lieutenant, "Tell them he has a severe cold."

"Does he?" Pellew asked.

"Yes, sir." Leahy stood, "That's why he has the headache, sore throat and fever. He has a head cold, but he'll be all right."

Pellew eyed the young doctor a moment.

"Captain," McLoud moved to stand in front of Pellew, "we need to find out who did this to Mr. Kennedy. And this is the only way. The one who poisoned him has no idea he is in fact genuinely ill. He is going to assume that we believe Mr. Kennedy is ill, and will expect Mr. Kennedy to die."

"Mr. Bracegirdle," Pellew turned to his first lieutenant, "inform the crew and passengers that Mr. Kennedy has....a severe cold."

"Yes, sir." The lieutenant saluted and left the cabin.

A knock came to the door and Pellew called, "Come." Pellew eyed Hepplewhite as he came in, "Doctor. I have been made aware of something very disturbing."

"That Kennedy doesn't have what that boy thought it was." Hepplewhite gestured to Leahy, who glared at the surgeon.

Pellew stared at the man, "I have just been made aware of the fact that Midshipman Jack Simpson beat Mr. Kennedy."

Cleveland was stunned that anyone would tell the captain about Simpson, while Hepplewhite became nervous.

"Well, doctor?" Pellew was trying his best not to lose his temper.

"Sir?" Hepplewhite blinked at him.

"Don't play the fool with me, Hepplewhite, I know better." Pellew walked to the bunk, reached down, and took hold of the blanket, "Do you want to see the scars?"

Hepplewhite fidgeted, becoming more worried.

"You do not have to, do you?" Pellew eyed the surgeon, "You saw them when they were first made."

Another knock came to the door. The captain released the blanket and straightened. "Come."

Matthews and Styles came into the cabin with their arms full of blankets.

Bloody Hell, it's getting crowded in here! Pellew thought.

"Put them on the chair, please." Leahy instructed, and followed the two men. Taking a blanket from the pile in Styles' arms, the young doctor moved back to the bunk and put it over the blanket already covering Kennedy.

"Thank you, gentlemen." Pellew gave them a nod.

Styles saluted and started for the door, but Matthews paused a moment, looking at Kennedy.

Pellew studied him a moment. Seaman Matthews had been on Justinian for years before Kennedy went aboard and was in Simpson's division. He probably knew more then the doctor. "Matthews, Styles, wait for a moment." He cleared his throat, "Gentlemen, let's go into the other cabin, so Mr. Kennedy can sleep."

Pellew usered the men into the next room, leaving the door to the sleeping cabin open. He turned to the seamen, "I am going to ask a question, and I expect complete honesty from each of you men. I know Simpson beat Mr. Kennedy. How many of you witnessed one of those beatings?"

Matthews raised his hand, followed by Styles, and then Cleveland.

Pellew was a little surprised that Cleveland's hand went up, but nodded, "How many of you tried to stop the beating you witnessed?"

The same hands went up again.

"How many of you reported Simpson's actions to Lieutenant Eccleston?" Pellew asked.

This time, no hands went up.

"Why not?" The captain raised his brow.

"Sir," Styles said slowly, "Mr. Simpson told Matthews, Finch, and me, that if we told anyone about the beatings, or tried t' come between 'im and Mr. Kennedy again, 'e'd 'urt Mr. Kennedy worse. 'e said he could 'urt 'im in ways we could not even imagine. Ways that 'ould distroy Mr. Kennedy an' disgrace 'is family. Or 'e'd kill Mr. Kennedy like 'e killed Mr. Wallace."

"Who is Mr. Wallace?" Pellew asked.

"Mr. Wallace, sir," Matthews began, "'e looked after Mr. Kennedy when the lad first came aboard. Finch told us that Mr. Simpson pushed Mr. Wallace from the yardarm. But I don't know exactly why, sir."

Closing his eyes, Cleveland took a deep breath, and offered, "I do, sir."

Pellew turned his attention to the midshipman, "Then explain."

"Yes, sir." Cleveland began, "Mr. Kennedy was only twelve when he came aboard, and was very homesick for the first few weeks. His first night aboard, after we had put out the lanterns, we heard him weeping. Simpson shouted at him to be quiet, and Mr. Wallace got up and went to Mr. Kennedy's hammock. He held Mr. Kennedy, speaking to him softly, then he quietly sang until Mr. Kennedy fell asleep."

Horatio was glad that someone had cared about Archie.

"Mr. Wallace began looking after Mr. Kennedy." Cleveland told him, "You see, when Mr. Wallace first came aboard, he told us he had a little brother, and that he missed him. When Mr. Kennedy came aboard, Mr. Wallace did not seem as sad as he had been. I think Mr. Kennedy sort of became Mr. Wallace's little brother. One night, Simpson grabbed Mr. Kennedy.....sir, Mr. Simpson would have what he called the inquisition."

Knowing what the Spanish inquisition was, Pellew feared he knew what this inquisition was going to be.

"Simpson would beat someone until they told him their darkest secrets." Cleveland explained.

A knock came to the door. "Come." Pellew called.

Bracegirdle and Bowles looked into the sleeping cabin. "Mr. Taylor has the watch, sir." Bracegirdle said, then he joined the other men in the day cabin..

"The wind has also changed direction, sir." Reported Bowles before doing the same.

"Thank you, gentlemen." The captain gave them a nod, then turned his attention to Cleveland, "Go on, Mr. Cleveland."

"Yes, sir. Well, the night Mr. Simpson grabbed Mr. Kennedy, that was what he was going to do. But Mr. Wallace told him to release Mr. Kennedy or he would send for Lieutenant Eccleston. Mr. Simpson let go of Mr. Kennedy, but was very angry at Mr. Wallace. A few weeks later, when Mr. Wallace was sent on leave, Mr. Simpson decided to conduct his inquisition. Mr. Kennedy," Cleveland smiled, "ran out of the midshipmen's mess. He had taken the book he was reading, and I was told by Midshipman Henry, that Mr. Kennedy had ran up on deck and asked Mr. Bowles about something in his book. I think that only made Simpson more angry."

"I remember that night." Bowles said. "Simpson was the reason Mr. Kennedy did not want to go below?"

"Yes, sir." Cleveland answered, "The next time I saw Mr. Kennedy, he came running into our berth, bleeding, bruised, and heavily weeping."

"Good Lord, I made him go below to that beating!" Bowles closed his eyes.

"You did not know that was going to happen, Mr. Bowles." Pellew told him, and gave Cleveland a nod.

Cleveland continued, "Simpson came in after him and told him he would be very sorry he did that. Then Simpson announced it was time for the inquisition."

"And did the two of you hold Archie down like you did me?" Horatio asked angrily.

 

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CHAPTER SIXTY FIVE

 

"What?" Bracegirdle stared at Hornblower, not believing he had heard correctly.

"Wait a moment." Pellew turned to Hornblower, "Held you down?"

"Mr. Cleveland," Horatio stated, "and Mr. Hether held me down for Simpson to conduct his inquisition on me."

"We had no choice, Horatio." Cleveland said.

"Archie was only twelve!" Horatio was enraged, "A child! And you helped Simpson torture him!"

"We didn't want to!" Cleveland shot back, "Horatio, Simpson would have done far worse then...."

"What could be worse than the countless scars all over his body!" Horatio demanded.

Cleveland looked surprised, "I never thought he'd let anyone see those, much less talk about them."

"Why didn't you try to stop it?!" Horatio never could understand why Cleveland, Hether, and Clayton never tried to stand against Simpson together.

"I wanted to!" Cleveland snapped, "You'll never know how much I wanted to!"

"You didn't have to hold Archie down for Simpson!" Horatio pointed out.

"Yes, we did! Horatio, you don't understand! If we had not helped him...." Cleveland shook his head, "Simpson had killed before, and was capable of far worse then what he was doing to Archie. If we did not obey him...." Cleveland stopped himself and glanced at Hepplewhite.

The doctor shot him a warning glare.

Cleveland turned back to Hornblower, pleadingly, "Horatio, please believe me, I hated seeing Archie hurt, but I didn't want to bring worse pain on him by refusing Simpson's orders. I have nightmares about it! I can't even look at Archie without feeling nauseous! I can't hear his name without hearing his screams in my head!" Tears came to Cleveland's eyes, "I'm sorry, Horatio, and I'll never forgive myself, but I can't change what happened. And I regret that if I could do it all over, I would still have to make them same decision."

Everyone stood in silence as Cleveland wiped his eyes, and it occurred to Horatio, that since Archie had returned from prison, Cleveland had been avoiding him. Now, Horatio understood why.

Cleveland broke the silence, "Horatio, you have no idea what Simpson was capable of. We do. So, you should not judge us."

Pellew was beginning to feel even more nauseous then before at the thought of Kennedy, only twelve, being held down and beaten. He did not really want to hear this, but knew he must, "Mr. Cleveland, continue."

"Yes, sir." Cleveland obeyed, "You see, sir, Jack Simpson would beat someone until Jack had had enough. Mr. Kennedy almost didn't survive it. When Mr. Kennedy awoke the next evening, he told Lieutenant Eccleston what Simpson had done to him. Dr. Hepplewhite told Lieutenant Eccleston that Mr. Kennedy had been fighting and was lying to keep from being punished."

"Why?!" Pellew shot Hepplewhite a glare.

"Because Simpson had told him to." Cleveland stated.

"Lieutenant Eccleston had said Dr. Hepplewhite reported Mr. Kennedy for fighting." Bowles remembered, "Mr. Kennedy was punished for it."

Pellew stared at the sailing master. He blinked and shook his head, then asked, "Mr. Kennedy was beaten by Simpson and then punished for it?!"

"Yes, sir." Cleveland said, "When he was released from the sick berth, Mr. Kennedy was caned. A dozen for fighting and a dozen for insisting that he had not been."

Horatio buried his face in his hands with a groan. Matthews moved next to Hornblower, giving him strength just by his closeness.

Bowles looked positively ill, and Pellew closed his eyes against the sudden pain in his chest. Then he felt the anger boil inside him, and looked up at Cleveland and Hepplewhite, "And neither of you attempted to tell Eccleston the truth and stop this punishment?"

"Sir," Cleveland told him, "before Mr. Kennedy was released from the sick berth, Mr. Wallace returned. Mr. Kennedy told him what had happened, and Mr. Wallace was furious. He confronted Mr. Simpson and told Mr. Simpson that if he ever touched Mr. Kennedy again, he would see Simpson brought up on charges. Mr. Wallace told us that we had better tell the truth when Mr. Eccleston asked us what happened. The next morning, before Mr. Wallace was able to speak to the lieutenant....he was killed."

Styles sounded bitter, "Mr. Simpson pushed him from the yardarm."

"Finch saw Mr. Simpson do it, sir." Matthews stated, "Mr. Simpson told Finch 'e would be next if 'e told." Horatio shuddered and Matthews glances at him, sympathetically, but was wondering how Hornblower would feel about them now that he knows Matthews and Styles did nothing to stop Simpson.

"Mr. Simpson told us that he killed Wallace and would do the same to us if we didn't obey him, sir." Cleveland was quiet a few moments, then said, "Sir, Mr. Wallace used to walk on the rail from the stern to the bow and never lost his balance. He could walk that rail in any kind of weather." Cleveland smiled at the memory, "He told Mr. Kennedy he would teach him how to do that, but...." Cleveland's face fell again, "..he was killed before he could teach him."

"I remember Wallace doing that." Realization set in and Bowles shook his head, "Sir, he could not have fallen from the yardarm."

"So all of you lied," Leahy said, "and allowed that bastard to beat a twelve year old boy."

"We had no choice!" Cleveland told him.

"Oh, you couldn't have stood together and told your superiors the truth?!" Leahy charged, "You allowed a child to be beaten rather then have the courage to be men!"

"Matthews, Styles, and Finch could not have changed anything even if they had spoken up." Pellew told the young doctor, "Eccleston would not have taken their word over the doctor's."

"Doctor?!" Leahy turned to Hepplewhite, advancing as he charged, "How can you call yourself a doctor and lie about your own patient?! Make him suffer a beating after he had been beaten by another shipmate?! A doctor's duty is to his patient! You should have protected Mr. Kennedy from that monster! You are a sorry excuse for a doctor, and an even sorrier excuse for a man!!"

"How dare you!" Hepplewhite fumed.

"It was quite easy!" Leahy shot back.

"Gentlemen!" Pellew barked at them as McLoud caught Leahy by the arms and pulled him back, away from Hepplewhite. Pellew dropped his voice, "Hold your voices down. Mr. Kennedy is trying to sleep."

"There is no excuse for what you did, Dr. Hepplewhite." Bracegirdle stated.

"I didn't beat him." Hepplewhite folded his arm over his chest.

"No." McLoud stated, "You helped Mr. Kennedy's assailant cover up his crime." Everyone looked at McLoud, who had released Leahy and was glaring at Hepplewhite, "I don't know how the Navy does it, but if you were a civilian, you would be charged with aiding and abetting Simpson."

"I did no such thing!" Hepplewhite protested.

"You lied about how Mr. Kennedy was injured," McLoud told him, "thus making yourself party to Simpson's actions, and making yourself Simpson's accomplice."

"I had no choice!" Hepplewhite snapped.

"Is that all you men can say?!" Leahy's fury was so intense Pellew could almost feel it, "A twelve year old child is brutalized, and everyone's excuse is, 'I had no choice!'. I can't believe His Majesty's Navy has so many spineless jellyfish in it!!"

"Dalen," McLoud stepped in front of him and put his hands on the young doctor's shoulders, his voice calm, "this won't change anything."

"He was a child, Angus!" Leahy said quietly, looking at McLoud with tears in his eyes, "A child!"

"I know." McLoud said softly, "But you cannot change what has happened. You know that."

Closing his eyes, Leahy lowered his head and took several deep breaths to calm himself.

Pellew looked from Cleveland to Hepplewhite, then shook his head, "I don't know when I have ever been so ashamed of men in His Majesty's Navy."

"Everyone was afraid of Simpson!" Hepplewhite said, "If he could kill Mr. Wallace, he would not have hesitated to kill the rest of us. As long as we obeyed him, he would not hurt us."

"Are you saying that Mr. Kennedy did not obey Simpson?" Bowles raised his brow.

"After Wallace threatened Simpson because of Kennedy, Simpson took everything out on Kennedy." Hepplewhite told him.

"Did Eccleston know Mr. Kennedy was being beaten?" Pellew asked.

"I don't think so, sir." Hepplewhite answered.

"Uh....sir?" Cleveland said hesitantly, "Simpson did something to Mr. Kennedy every day. Sometimes Simpson would slap him, or some other small way of hurting him, and sometimes Simpson would just stare at him. That made Mr. Kennedy very nervous and uncomfortable, which is why Simpson did it. He'd do anything to make Mr. Kennedy nervous. It all depended on what kind of mood Jack was in."

Pellew closed his eyes and swallowed. He furious that Jack Simpson could have everyone on a ship afraid to speak up for one terrified child, "So all of you let Mr. Kennedy be beaten for four years and never tried to help him."

"Simpson would have done worse, if we had tried, sir." Cleveland insisted.

 

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CHAPTER SIXTY SIX

 

"What could be worse then what he was doing to Mr. Kennedy?" Pellew eyed Cleveland, then demanded, "Out with it man! What could he have done that was worse then what he did?!"

Cleveland swallowed, looking very uncomfortable as he said slowly, hesitantly, "He threatened to.....to.....violate Mr. Kennedy, sir."

Everyone in the room reacted to that with various gasps and groans. Horatio shook his head slightly, not wanting to believe this.

Pellew dreaded the answer to this question, "Did he?"

"I don't know, sir." Cleveland answered very slowly, "I heard rumors that he did, but we never saw him do it. However, Jack did start making Archie sit next to him in the mess so he could caress Archie's face and feel his hair. It was awful to watch. Archie was so humiliated!"

Pellew closed his eyes, managing to stifle his groan, Dear God! The poor boy! Opening his eyes, Edward asked, "How old was Mr. Kennedy when this started?"

"He was two months shy of his fourteenth birthday, sir."

Pellew felt his stomach heave.

Cleveland lowered his head, then everyone became silent.

After almost ten minutes of silence, McLoud sighed, "So, if we find the reason, we'll find the killer." Everyone turned to look at the young lawyer, who was looking at Leahy, "Why did someone poison Mr. Kennedy?"

"Poison?!" Bowles eyes widened, "Why would anyone want to poison Mr. Kennedy? He's such a good lad."

Cleveland just stared in silent shock.

Leahy quickly glared at Cleveland, "Where is this Simpson?"

"Dead." Pellew answered, "I shot him."

"Too bad you couldn't have shot him before he hurt Mr. Kennedy." Leahy commented bitterly.

Pellew had thought the same thing when he saw the scars.

"So who on board this ship would want to kill Mr. Kennedy?" McLoud asked.

Everyone looked at to Hepplewhite, who immediately claimed, "I didn't do it!"

"No, he didn't." McLoud said, "Mr. Kennedy was poisoned before the good doctor here," He gestured toward Hepplewhite, "was made aware of the fact that everyone knows what a louse he is."

Matthews and Styles snickered at that.

"No." McLoud mused aloud, shaking his head, "This was done by someone with courage and cleverness, and we all know the good doctor to be lacking in both."

The seamen snickered again, grateful that this man was able to say what they felt.

"How do you know Kennedy didn't poison himself?" Hepplewhite challenged.

Bowles and Bracegirdle suddenly remembered that Kennedy had suggested that the medicines may have been stolen to use for suicide. Hornblower and the seamen, however, were thinking of Archie trying to starve himself to death in prison. While Pellew felt guilty for possibly pushing Kennedy into doing this to himself, Was the boy not ready for such a heavy responsibility?

"Mr. Kennedy didn't poison himself." Leahy said, "If he had done this to himself, he would not have been as frightened as he was. Nor would he have begged for help." The young doctor shrugged, "Besides, if he didn't try to kill himself during his suffering at the hands of that Simpson, he's not going to do it now that he's safe. No, he didn't do this."

"All right, then." McLoud tried it another way, "What is it about Mr. Kennedy that might cause someone to want to end his life? Why would they want to kill him?"

"Jealousy." Leahy stated sadly.

"Jealous?!" Hepplewhite commented, "Of a boy who has fits and can't even be a man?!"

"Doctor Hepplewhite!" Pellew was taken aback.

McLoud moved to stand only inches from the surgeon. The young lawyer had dark brown eyes, and almost black hair. He was taller then Hornblower by at least two inches, and towering over the shorter Hepplewhite, McLoud suddenly seemed to be a very commanding presence, "You have no right to speak of the courage of another man, when you are so lacking in it yourself. From what I have observed of you and Mr. Kennedy, I can say, beyond the shadow of any doubt, that he is more of a man at this young age, the you will ever be in your entire lifetime! So you should refrain from making such remarks about him, or I shall be forced to challenge you to a duel!"

Leahy's brow quickly shot up and his mouth fell open as he watched McLoud in amusement.

McLoud turned away from the surgeon and resumed his former manner as if he had never been interrupted, "There is something about Mr. Kennedy that the man who poisoned him is jealous of."

Leahy walked over to Kennedy, then turned back to McLoud, "He's very handsome."

"Handsome enough to attract the ladies." McLoud said.

"And he has pleasant personality." Leahy pointed out.

McLoud nodded, "Both of them combined could make some men very jealous. More so, if the man who did this is unhappy with himself."

"Like Simpson?" Bracegirdle muttered.

"Yes." McLoud frowned, "So we need to find out who's trying to hurt him and stop them."

Leahy walked toward McLoud, spreading his arm wide with a bow, "Then lead us, O wise one."

"I will." McLoud stated simply.

"I know!" Leahy frowned in mock-irritation.

When McLoud smiled, Leahy rolled his eyes. It was obvious that these two were very good friends.

McLoud began pacing, "All right! We are going to go on the assumption that this was done out of jealousy. Who on this ship is jealous of him?"

Everyone looked at each other, and Bracegirdle frowned, suggesting, "Campbell?"

"No." McLoud shook his head slowly, "I doubt he knows how to break into anything."

"Sir?" Pellew raised his brow.

"Dr. Leahy's medicine chest has a lock on it." McLoud explained, "And it was in a trunk with a lock. There was no way for anyone to have slipped the keys from Dalen and my wife."

Leahy grinned, "Not where she keeps it!"

McLoud frowned at him, "Of course not. Elaina would not have been quiet about it."

"She'd have killed him for trying!" Leahy laughed.

"Most likely." McLoud laughed too, then turned serious again, "No. The only way to get into both chests would have been to break into them."

"They would also have to know medicine." Leahy added, "They chose the right medications."

"To kill him." Horatio felt his stomach turn at the thought.

"Not just that, Mr. Hornblower." Leahy told him, "The medicines they used gave him symptoms one might have with an illness. If I had not known how those medicines would a appear in someone who has ingested them, I would have assumed, like everyone else, that he was simply ill. And he would have died hours after the medicines took affect."

That stunned everyone in the room! Archie Kennedy would have died if not for the young doctor.

"All right then," McLoud cleared his throat, "we are looking for someone who is possibly jealous of Mr. Kennedy, and not only can break into locked chests, but has a knowledge of medicine, so that rules out Campbell. I doubt he has the skill to do either." McLoud turned to the officers and seamen, "You know Mr. Kennedy. Can you think of any one who might be jealous of him?"

"That fellow who threw himself in the corner during that battle the other night." Leahy said, "I'm sure it's just tearing him up that Mr. Kennedy did what he claimed couldn't be done."

"How do you know about that?" Hepplewhite asked.

"Everyone on the ship knows about it." Leahy informed him, "It's been the topic of most conversations since it happened."

"Lieutenant Young is in the brig." Pellew told him.

"Well, take him out of the arena then." Leahy sighed.

"Hmmm." McLoud began to circle Leahy, "Is there anyone else who might be jealous of Mr. Kennedy? Or might even be angry with him?"

"Lieutenant Taylor." Horatio looked at the captain.

Pellew frowned, he couldn't believe a twenty nine year old man would be jealous of an eighteen year old boy. If he were older, he might be jealous of the boy's youth alone. But then again, Taylor did comment that Kennedy was 'the captain's pet'.

 

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CHAPTER SIXTY SEVEN

 

"Why would Mr. Taylor be angry with Mr. Kennedy?" Bowles stared at Hornblower.

"Mr. Taylor was not happy that I made Mr. Kennedy chief gunnery officer." Pellew informed him.

"You did, sir?" Bowles was surprised.

"Yes." Pellew told him, "Mr. Taylor also seems to be jealous of Mr. Kennedy's hours of watch."

"Did anyone not explain to him that Mr. Kennedy has those hours so he can keep the children from harm?" Bracegirdle asked.

"No." Pellew shrugged, "But I doubt it would make much difference."

Bracegirdle sighed, and shook his head, "No. Lieutenant Taylor would not do this to Mr. Kennedy."

"It was that kind of thinking that allowed Simpson to brutalize Mr. Kennedy for four years ." Leahy pointed out, "No one wants to believe that someone they work with is a fiend."

"You do realize," McLoud continued pacing around the young doctor, "we keep eliminating every suspect we come up with."

"No one has eliminated Lieutenant Taylor yet." Horatio said.

"True." McLoud acknowledged, "So we have one suspect."

As the lawyer passed in front of Leahy again, the young doctor reached out and grabbed him, "Stop circling me! You're making me feel like you're a vulture waiting for me to die!"

"As if I would eat you!" McLoud frowned.

Leahy gave him a hurt look, "Are you saying that I'm not good enough for you, Mr. McLoud?"

McLoud sighed, "I would answer that, but I do not feel like arguing with you."

"Ha ha." Leahy frowned.

McLoud grinned, then said, "I think better when I pace."

"So pace." Leahy gave him an irritated look, "Just don't circle me!"

"You are so paranoid." McLoud shook his head and began pacing back and forth, "All right, we have...."

Kennedy whimpered. Horatio and Leahy hurried into the other cabin, and the lieutenant went to the bunk and sat down on the edge, reaching forward to stroke his shoulder, "Shhh, Archie." Matthews and Styles stood in the doorway, watching the pair in concern.

Kennedy cringed away from his touch with a louder whimper. He tossed his head, restlessly and his voice sounded like a child's as he began to sob quietly, "No....no....please....!"

"Shhh." Horatio began stroking his friend's hair, "There, there, Archie."

"No....don't....!" Archie was beginning to shake, "Please....!"

"Shhh, Archie." Horatio soothed.

Archie began panting as his whimpering became louder, "Don't hurt me! Please, don't hurt me!"

Tears come to Matthews eyes and he closed them, knowing what the young officer was dreaming.

Styles clenched his teeth, Why didn't I kill that bastard when I had the chance!

"Shhh, Ar...."

Horatio's soothing was cut short when Archie bolted upright and cried out, "NO!!!!"

"Archie!" Horatio caught him by the shoulders, "Archie, it's all right!"

"Hor-Horatio?!" Archie whimpered, shaking and panting, his eyes still closed.

"Yes, Archie." Horatio kept his grip on his friend, "I'm here."

"Don't let him....don't let him hurt me, Horatio!" Archie sobbed, "Please, don't let Simpson hu-hurt me again!"

"He's dead, Archie!" Horatio raised his voice and shook his friend slightly, trying to wake him, "Captain Pellew killed him. Simpson's dead!"

"Si-Simpson's....dead?" Archie sobbed.

"Yes, Archie." Horatio assured him, "He's dead. My word on it."

Relaxing, Archie suddenly slumped against Horatio, his head resting on the lieutenant's shoulder, and tears slipping from under his closed eyelids.

Horatio held him, gently rubbing Archie's back in an effort to calm him. "Shhh, Archie. Shhh. You're all right." Horatio soothed his frightened friend.

"No, Horatio." Still trembling, Archie's voice was small and weak, "Something's wrong. I can't wake up."

"Just relax, Archie." Horatio soothed, "You're ill."

"We're in prison?" Frowning in his sleep, Archie asked the question as if he did not believe it himself. It was obvious Archie was only semi-conscious, his voice remaining a weak whisper.

"No." Horatio frowned, "We're on the Indy."

"Then why am I so ill?" Archie whimpered softly.

Leahy leaned down and whispered into Horatio's ear, "Don't tell him he was poisoned. He's in no condition to hear that."

Horatio shrugged, "You just became ill, Archie. But you're going to be fine."

" 'cause you're taking care of me." Archie's breathing was starting to return to normal, and Horatio could not stop the smile that came to his face at the complete trust Archie had in him.

Archie moved his head to Horatio's chest, frowning. Then moved it a bit more as if he were trying to find a comfortable spot. After a moment, he gave a little giggle, "I can hear your heart beating, H'ratio."

Glancing at each other, Matthews and Styles stifled their snickers.

"My heart beats faster then yours." Archie whispered softly, "Listen to it!"

"I'll take your word for it, Archie."

Archie sounded like a hurt child as he whispered, "You don't want to hear my heart beat, H'ratio?"

Leahy leaned down and whispered to Horatio, "You are not dealing with a fellow officer, Mr. Hornblower. He's not fully conscious and his illness has made him more like a child."

Horatio nodded, "Of course, I will listen to your heart, Archie." This would be much easier if we didn't have an audience. Horatio thought as he leaned down and put his ear on Archie's chest to listen. "You're right. Your heart does beat faster then mine." Horatio straightened.

"My heart beats faster then everyone's." Archie snuggled against Horatio again.

"Now, how do you know that?"

"Because I'm always frightened." Archie whispered.

"Why?" Horatio asked.

"I don't want to be hurt anymore, H'ratio." Archie answered softly.

Horatio closed his eyes and, holding his friend tightly, began rubbing Archie's back again, "I don't want you to be hurt anymore, either."

"I'm also frightened of Captain Pellew." Archie whispered.

"Why?" Horatio frowned.

"He reminds me of my father."

The captain had been standing behind the seamen, observing his young officers, and tried to suppress the urge to feel insulted by Kennedy's words. When he cleared his throat, Matthews and Styles moved aside to let him pass.

 

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CHAPTER SIXTY EIGHT

 

"I've been a disappointment to my father since my fits started." Archie whispered, "I'm a disappointment to Captain Pellew, as well. That's why he gave command of the Marie Gallant to you, even though I was the senior midshipman."

Pellew was suddenly assailed with guilt. He had completely overlooked Kennedy that day.

"That's not true, Archie." Horatio tried to assure him, "The captain is proud of you."

"Why? I'm a failure. I can't even complete a mission. If you had not struck me that night, everyone could have been killed 'cause of me." Archie whimpered, sadly, "Captain Pellew's ashamed of me!"

Pellew closed his eyes, regret painfully stabbing his heart.

"No, he's not." Horatio sighed, "The captain is very proud of you, Archie."

"My father isn't." Archie took a sobbing breath, "They sent me into the Navy because I had a fit at my mother's funeral in front of the lords that were attending it."

How sad! Pellew was not the only one in the cabin thinking that. When Kennedy had said that his father would not even look at him after he had a fit, Edward had no idea that was just the tip of the iceberg. What Lord Kennedy did to his son went beyond neglect - it was cruel! Pellew felt more ill then before.

"My father doesn't love me." Archie sobbed.

It was said with such great sadness that Horatio wanted to cry, and whispered, "I'm sorry, Archie."

"No one loves me!" Archie started crying.

"That's not true." Horatio told him.

"I have no one." Archie sobbed heavily.

"You have me." Horatio assured him.

"You don't love me, Horatio." Archie sobbed, "I'm just your duty."

"Archie...."

"You rescued Simpson after Justinian sank!" Archie took a shuddering breath, "You help everyone out of duty, just like the captain. But that's not love!" Archie pushed away from Horatio, but was so weak he fell back on the bunk. He turned toward the wall, crying.

Just like in prison.

No! Horatio thought, Never again! He leaned over Archie to take his friend's hands in his right hand and gently stroked Archie's hair with his left, "Archie, you are loved."

"I lose everyone who loves me." Archie sobbed, clutching his stomach, "I lost Mother....my sisters were married and moved away.....my uncle, James was banished from all Kennedy property...and Robert was killed."

"Who's Robert?" Horatio had never heard Archie mention him, "And why was your uncle banished from Kennedy property?"

"Robert Wallace was a midshipman that...Simpson pushed from the yardarm because he...took up for me!" Archie explained between sobs, "And Uncle James told my father....not to send me into the Navy! He said....if my father was that embarrassed....by my fits....I could go live with him! But my father....and grandmother didn't want it known....that Lord Kennedy's youngest son was living....with his brother! People would....wonder why! But if I were sent in-into the....Navy, no one would....question that! Uncle James told....my father, he should do what was....best for me, and....that the Navy was....not the best thing for me!"

The men in the cabin could hear the hurt in Archie's anguished sobs, "My grandmother told Uncle James to leave....at once, and if he ever set....foot on Kennedy....lands again, he would be shot! I've not seen him since! You see, Horatio? I lose everyone who loves me!"

Horatio did not try to stop his own tears for his friend. Archie had been sent away to save his father from embarrassment, when his uncle, who obviously did love him, could have taken him to live a peaceful and safe life. No wonder Archie feels so unloved! He has lost everyone who loved him.

Horatio remembered Leahy's words to the officers that night on deck, 'People who have been abused need love more then the average person does'.

And Archie's illness has brought out the hurt child inside. A lonely, rejected child. Closing his eyes on his agony, Horatio swallowed, then said, "You do have me, Archie. And I love you." Horatio had never said those words to anyone other then his parents, and was surprised that they had not been as difficult to say as he thought they would be.

Archie sniffed, "What?"

"That day in prison.......I never realized how much you meant to me until I could not get a response from you." Horatio had to stop and swallowed, "When I was small, I asked God to give me a brother. But when my mother died, I gave up hope of that prayer being answered. I never realized that my prayer had been answered the day I met you."

Archie turned his head to look at Horatio, but could not open his eyes, "Wha...." His voice failed him and he took a deep breath to try again, "What are you saying, H'ratio?"

"I'm saying," Horatio squeezed Archie's hands gently, "that you are the brother that I had prayed for."

Archie sobbed, "You love me?"

"Yes, Archie." Horatio said, "I do love you."

Archie tried to roll over on his back, but was so weak he needed Horatio to help him. Archie held his stomach and swallowed, then winced. He licked his lips and said very softly, "I wish we really were brothers."

"We are brothers, Archie. Just like the rabbits in your story."

"You knew that was about us?"

"It sounded familiar."

The officers and seamen exchanged glances. The officers realizing the story had been about Hornblower and Kennedy, and the seamen having their suspicions confirmed.

"I'm glad I have you, 'ratio." Archie whispered weakly, "I've been so lonely!"

"You don't have to be." Horatio told him, "There are so many people who have been reaching out to you, Archie. I know you have to know how much Matthews and Styles care for you. I saw them with you the other night on deck. I know the affection they have for you. When you were ill in prison infirmary, every time they saw me they asked how you were and if there was anything they could do for you - besides praying. Archie, the word affection means love. And their affection for you is very deep. I've seen it. They didn't want to leave that prison without you, either."

Archie took a shuddering breath, tears slowly sliding down his face. He had not opened his eyes once throughout their conversation and still could not get them to open.

Horatio reached down and tenderly wiped the tears from his friend's face, "And I know that Mr. Bracegirdle and Mr. Bowles are fond of you, as well."

"Mr. Bowles was always kind to me." Archie whispered.

At that, Bowles felt nauseous and thought bitterly, So kind I never once, in the four years we served together on Justinian, noticed that you were being brutalized!

"Mr. Bracegirdle is kind to me, too." Archie sounded so drained.

"And they are very fond of you, Archie." Horatio told him.

"I love them." Archie's voice was becoming weaker.

Archie clutched his stomach with a whimper.

Horatio frowned, wishing there was something they could do to ease his friend's pain, "Archie, the captain has an affection for you also, he said so before the hearing."

"And I love him." Archie whispered weakly.

Pellew raised his brow at that.

"I thought you said you feared him?" Horatio asked.

"I do." Archie whispered, "But I love him, too."

Pellew was moved by Kennedy's childlike honesty.

 

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CHAPTER SIXTY NINE

 

Archie whimpered again and Horatio asked, "Archie, is your belly hurting?"

"I hurt everywhere." Archie moaned.

"But you're only holding your belly." Horatio said softly.

"I feel so nauseous."

Horatio thought of his father, "Move your arm, Archie."

Archie obediently moved his arm and Horatio put his hand on Archie's stomach. Archie gasped, seizing Horatio's wrist with both hands, and looking terrified.

"Archie, I'm sorry!" Horatio hated that his act of compassion had caused his friend such fear and said softly, "When I was small and felt nauseous, my father would rub my belly to make it settle. I was only trying to make you feel better."

"Oh." Archie breathed quietly and released Horatio's wrist. He flinched when Horatio's hand made contact, then relaxed as his friend began to gently rub his stomach in a circular motion. "I don't think there's a genie in there." Archie jested weakly.

Horatio softly laughed, "I don't think so, either."

"If you...." Archie stopped to take a breath, "..could have three wishes, 'ratio, what....what would you wish for?"

"First, I would wish that you...." Horatio stopped. He did not wish to make his friend feel bad, so he decided on, "..that you pass your lieutenant's examination."

Archie gave a weak smile at that.

"Second, I would wish that you and I could become admirals someday." Horatio continued rubbing his friend's stomach.

"Admiral Hornblower....and Admiral Kennedy." Archie smiled sleepily, "I could live with that."

"So could I." Horatio grinned, "Third, I would wish that you and I would live long and happy lives. What would you wish for?"

"First, I would wish that Simpson - and people like Simpson - didn't exist." There was no anger in Archie's voice. Just sadness. "Then I could be the man I should have been. Second, I...."

"Archie," Horatio interrupted, "I did not say this because I did not want you to feel bad, but my first wish - I wanted to wish that you had never been hurt by anyone."

Archie lip trembled as a single tear slipped from his closed eyes. He sniffed, then whispered, "Thank you, Horatio." He took a deep breath, "My second wish....would be that I....would always have your....friendship."

"You will always have it, Archie." Horatio assured him, still rubbing Archie's belly, "My word on it."

Archie smiled and became quiet. Horatio thought he had falling asleep, until Archie whispered, "My third....wish would be....that I could be an....officer Captain....Pellew would be....proud of. I hate being a....disappointment....to him."

"You are not a disappointment to him." Horatio told him gently, "Archie, you always do your best and that's all Captain Pellew asks for. How does your belly feel?"

Archie was struggling just to stay awake, "Better. Thank....you, 'ratio. I don't....think any....one else would....have....have rubbed my....belly. They would have....been too....em-embarrassed to."

"Archie, you should try to sleep."

"Will you....stay with me?"

"I'll be right here." Horatio said very softly, "I'll not leave you. Go to sleep, now."

Archie tried to nod, but did not have the strength, his voice a mere whisper, " 'ratio, I...." He took a deep breath so he could finish, "..love you, too."

Horatio smiled and put his hand on Archie's face, "I know, Archie. Now go to sleep."

Archie moved his hand over toward his friend and Horatio reached down to take it. Holding Archie's hand in his right hand, Horatio began to stroke his Archie's brow with his left.

After only a few moments, Archie's arm went limp. The rise and fall of his chest assured Horatio that he was sleeping. Standing, Horatio put his friend's hand on his chest and pulled the blanket up over Archie's chest and shoulders.

"Very good, lieutenant." Leahy commented, "You said exactly what he needed to hear." Horatio turned to look at the young doctor, who said, "He needs to believe that he's loved."

"He is." Horatio was irritated that his conversation with Archie had been heard by everyone in the room.

Leahy nodded, "Well, most men would not want to tell another they love him no matter how much they do. Thank you for giving him the reassurance he needed."

Horatio was becoming annoyed at this man talking about Archie as if Archie were his friend.

"I hope you can be that gentle and compassionate when the painful part comes." Leahy walked over and put his hand on Archie's forehead, then sighed.

"Painful part?" Horatio did not want to see Archie suffer more then he already was suffering.

"It's going to get worse before it'll get better, lieutenant." Leahy told him gently as he took one of the blankets and spread it on top of the ones that were already covering Kennedy, "The pain will be more severe than it is now, and he'll have difficulty breathing. He is going to need to know that someone loves him. Love will be what pulls him through this."

Horatio closed his eyes, No, Archie, I can't lose you again!

Pellew walked over to the bunk and looked down at the sleeping boy, "Can you keep him alive, doctor?"

"I'll do my best, captain." Leahy said sincerely. Then he quickly went back to the other cabin and looked at McLoud, "What about that woman?"

"What?" Pellew joined them.

"The dark haired woman that was watching Mr. Kennedy the day he started telling the children stories." Leahy said.

"What about her?" Hepplewhite glared at the young doctor.

Leahy continued to look at McLoud, "She could be jealous because Mr. Kennedy fancies the Padorin girl and not her."

"That doesn't make sense!" Cleveland said, "If she wants Mr. Kennedy to like her, she could just try talking to him."

"She cannot talk to him." Pellew stated, "I ordered her to stay away from him."

"But if she likes him," Cleveland looked at Leahy, "why would she want to kill him?"

"If she cannot have him," McLoud said, "she may not want anyone else to."

"Miss Borgia is not the kind of woman Mr. Kennedy needs." Pellew told him.

"Borgia?" Leahy faked a shudder, "Ooooh! There's someone to be afraid of!"

"Yes." Bracegirdle said, "She is a woman to stay away from."

"In the middle ages," Leahy stated, "the Borgias were said to have dabbled in black magic."

McLoud rolled his eyes and let out a heavy sigh.

"Lucrezia Borgia was suspected of poisoning her husband." Leahy told him.

Everyone's eyes widened in shock.

"She was said to have a ring with a secret compartment," Leahy explained, "which is where she put the poison until she was able to slip it into her husband's drink."

Everyone looked at Kennedy, then back at Leahy.

"Well, the man died without a mark on him!" The young doctor shrugged, "After she had married this man, Lucrezia's father found a man who was more influential, and wished his daughter could marry him." Leahy flung his arms in the air, "And low and behold, Lucrezia's husband suddenly dies, leaving her free to marry the man her father wanted her to marry!" The young doctor looked directly at McLoud, "Now doesn't that seem very suspicious?"

McLoud eyed Leahy a moment, "I wonder what it is like being inside your mind. It must be like being caught in a whirl wind!"

Leahy's mouth fell opened and he frowned. Then with a huff, he rolled his eyes, making a sound of irritation and turned away to put his hand on Kennedy's forehead.

"I am teasing you, Dalen." McLoud almost sang the words, then folded his arms over his chest, "And you are right - considering the fact the her father wanted her to marry someone else and then her husband suddenly dies without a physical reason, I would have been very suspicious."

Leahy made a face at the lawyer, then turned to Pellew, "Captain, can I get a basin of cool water and a rag, please?"

Pellew nodded to his servant and Tibbs hurried to obey.

 

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CHAPTER SEVENTY

 

"So," McLoud sighed, "you think Miss Borgia should be considered a suspect?"

"Well, I wouldn't rule her out." Leahy shrugged, "But you and I know how much I trust others."

"Yes, I do." Frowning, McLoud nodded.

"Shouldn't you go check on Elaina?" Leahy said.

"Are you trying to get rid of me?" McLoud raised his brow, slightly smiling.

"No." Leahy gave him an annoyed look, "I was just thinking about your wife, who's probably feeling like you've abandoned her."

McLoud's eyes grew wide, "What are you doing thinking about my wife?"

"I'm a doctor." Leahy frowned, "I always think of people."

"All right." McLoud said, "I will accept that. But only because I know you. I shall go check on her. But I will be back. Do you want me to bring you something to eat?"

"No." Leahy sighed, "I've lost my appetite. Thank you anyway."

McLoud walked over to Leahy and put his hand on the younger man's shoulder, cocking his head, "Are you all right?"

Leahy gave a slight smile, then took a deep breath, "You know how I feel about violence."

"Yes, I do." McLoud said softly and gently rubbed Leahy's shoulder, "That is why I want to make certain sure you are all right."

"You know me, Angus." Leahy shrugged, sounding very weary as he said, "I survive whether I want to or not."

McLoud leaned down, making himself eye to eye with the young doctor, "I am bringing you something to eat. And you are going to eat it."

Leahy flashed him a mischievous grin, "If you force me to, it may come back up."

"That is a chance I am willing to take." McLoud said seriously and Leahy made a face. Straightening, the lawyer said, "You need to eat."

"I can't make any promises." Leahy smiled.

Someone cleared his throat behind them, "The basin of water, doctor."

"Thank you." Leahy said as McLoud moved out of the way. The young doctor reached for the basin and, walking into the sleeping cabin, he put it on the small table next to the bunk.

"I will be back." McLoud threw the remark over his shoulder as he walked to the door.

"I'll be here." Leahy said and McLoud left. Leahy sat down on the edge of the bunk.

Pellew walked into the sleeping cabin, "How long have you and Mr. McLoud been friends?"

"Years." Leahy took the rag from the servant and dipped it into the water.

"He's a lawyer," Bracegirdle mused fromt he doorway, "and you're a doctor. It doesn't seem like the two of you should be friends."

"No, it doesn't." Leahy laughed as squeezed the excess water from the rag, "But we did meet in school while he was studying to be a lawyer and I was trying to become a doctor."

"How did you meet?" Horatio asked.

"That is a story in itself!" Leahy began to tenderly wipe the sweat from Kennedy's face. Archie flinched and made a small sound when the wet rag touched his skin, but did not wake.

"One you are going to tell us?" Pellew lifted his chin.

"Why not?" Leahy shrugged and carefully wiped Kennedy's neck, "I had never seen Angus before that day. Like I said, he was studying to be a lawyer and I was studying medicine - or I should say - trying to. I had been there for almost a year, and was not doing ANY good at all. On this particular day, I was trying to study in the library when I receive a message informing me of my mother's passing. I don't know how long I had sat there staring at the letter. I heard someone talking to me, but can't for the life of me, tell you what he said. He helped me out of the chair and took me back to my room...." Leahy frowned, "I wonder how he knew where my room was? I didn't tell him........or did I?" The young man shook his head and shrugged, "I don't know. I was in shock. I didn't know it at the time, but several months later I found that I had had all the symptoms of shock that day."

"What symptoms are those?" Pellew asked.

Leahy dipped the rag back into the water, "After reading the letter I went numb. I just sat there dazed and shaking, and I was so cold."

"That's the same way Mr. Kennedy acted after the battle with the Spanish frigates." Bracegirdle remembered.

"He was probably in shock." Leahy began wiping Kennedy's face again, "Anyway, Angus took me to my room and put me in my bed, then left. When he woke me up some hours later, he told me to get dressed and started packing my clothes. He said he had informed my professors about the letter and received permission to take me home for the funeral, and that he had a coach waiting." Leahy wiped Archie's neck, "We spent the whole night traveling to my family's home. He had even brought something for us to eat when we awoke the next morning. We arrived late in the afternoon."

Leahy dipped the rag into the water again, "When the coach stopped, Angus got out first, then helped me out. It was good for me that he did, because my knees gave out as I was leaving the coach and he kept me from falling to the ground." Leahy began wiping Kennedy's face and neck once more, "My father, my sister, and I embraced each other, and stood for the longest time, holding each other and weeping. When we finally gained control of ourselves, my father asked me to introduce him to my friend, and for the first time I realized that I had no idea who this fellow was!"

Dipping the rag in the water once more, Leahy said, "Angus introduced himself, and stayed by my side the entire time I was home. He sat next to my bed that first night and held me when I wept. It was the first time in my life I had been in our home without my mother there." Leahy gently wiped Kennedy's face, "And thank God Angus was beside me at the funeral! He was the only reason I stayed on my feet! He was even there for me when we returned to college, doing the same as before....being there for me. Holding me when I needed it. And he always seemed to know when I needed someone to hold me. I could never have made it without him."

"So, you have been friends since." Pellew said.

Leahy nodded, "He's always been there for me."

"And Mr. McLoud is concerned because of how you feel about Mr. Kennedy being brutalized?" Pellew knew there was more to McLoud's question than what they had heard.

Leahy took a deep breath and dipped the rag again, "Angus knows how I feel about violence. I loath bullies as much as I do liars."

Hepplewhite opened his mouth, but the captain silenced him with a look and asked, "Why is that, doctor?"

Leahy gently wiped Kennedy's face once more, "I do not believe that anyone, least of all children, should be hurt. Children were not put in this world to be hurt, and I despise those who do hurt them."

"How is Mr. Kennedy, Dr. Leahy?" Bowles asked.

"His fever's getting worse." Leahy said softly.

"Ha!" Hepplewhite started toward the bunk, "He needs to be bled."

Tossing the rag into the basin of water, Leahy stood to block Hepplewhite, "You're not touching him."

"Captain, tell him to move." Hepplewhite said, thrusting his chest out.

"You'll touch Mr. Kennedy over my dead body!" Leahy warned quietly.

Everyone looked at the young doctor, startled.

"He needs to be bled, captain!" Hepplewhite insisted.

"What the hell are you?!" Leahy asked, "A vampire bat?!"

"Get out of my way!" Hepplewhite growled.

"You try to touch Mr. Kennedy and you'll find out how fast I can make you a patient." Leahy's voice low and cold.

The captain was surprised by the young doctor's words, and even more so, by the determined look on Leahy's face.

"How dare you?!" Hepplewhite fumed.

"Why do you keep asking that?" Leahy put his hands on his hips, "By now it should be obvious that I say exactly what I think."

"Gentlemen!" Pellew stepped between them.

 

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