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No Rest for the Wicked
by Emily Regent

 

AN: I have attempted to keep this canon so far as the TV series of Hornblower is concerned; this story takes place, for the most part, during 'Loyalty' and 'Duty', and explains what Lt. Kennedy got up to during this time. One piece of non-canon is the survival of Wellard, of whom I'm also fond (and while I was resurrecting one, I might as well the other). I used the name 'Archer' instead of Archibald for Kennedy since I really feel 'Archibald' isn't him.

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PROLOGUE

Survivors from the obliterated French ship were pulled from the frigid water by the crew of Hotspur, Cpt. Hornblower leaving the rescue, and the subsequent arrests, to his other officers as he kept watch from the quarter deck. He had hoped for a swift and uneventful return to Portsmouth, but rescuing the shipwrecked was a duty he took pride in observing, and there was nothing left to do, but look forward to returning to England with his prisoners, and have some time to spend with Maria and his child, if he were lucky, and the Commodore could pull some strings on his behalf.
He could hear Bush shouting orders from nearly the whole way across the ship, and tried not to smile. He always knew exactly where his First Lieutenant was, just from the sound of his voice. Nobody could ever claim not to have heard an order from Bush, even in the midst of canon and gun fire.
A figure collapsed against the sides of Hotspur, and Hornblower saw the fair haired man grasped the railing to keep himself from falling completely. He was clutching his chest, which was covered only by a torn jacket and ragged shirt ­ he looked like a passenger; possibly old and frail. Styles and Matthews dumped him unceremoniously on the deck, letting him fall where he would; neither were inclined towards sympathy towards prisoners and Hornblower watched them idly. Then he noticed a kind of cessation of activity while his two most reliable hands consulted rapidly with Wellard, who stared at the prisoner while listening to the other men. Hornblower frowned down, wondering what the excitement was about, when Wellard separated from the group, bounding towards him across the deck with undignified haste. Styles brushed off some of the other crew, keeping them away from the prisoner.
Not like Styles - or Matthews for that matter - to be so territorial about their captives, but they seemed more inclined to protect this one than guard him.
"Sir," Wellard addressed, breathlessly, his face white.
"Yes, Mr Wellard?" he asked, neutrally, waiting until he had a reason to be hard on the boy. There could be any number of reasons this prisoner attracted so much interest, but Hornblower couldn't make out much more than silhouettes from this distance, in the black night, lit only by the barest of crescent moons; the man was probably ill.
"Sir" Wellard repeated, apparently unsure how to break his news. "Sir ­ I don't know how to saySir ­ could you come and seeplease, Captain?"
Not that Wellard had a tremendous amount of confidence in himself, but Hornblower had always made himself approachable to the Midshipmen; especially Wellard, who had suffered enough terror under Sawyer, and the boy should be sufficiently confident to express himself better than this! There was some reason for this confusion; and he would walk across his ship to discover it ­ Wellard was no fool; something was amiss and it would be serious enough to require his attention. Of that he was certain.
Despite his curiosity, he did not run, but strode onto the deck, his long legs making more dignified work of the speed he could accrue than most Captains. Wellard had to trot to keep pace with him, and he could hear the boy's rapid, agitated breathing, and see his wide, shining eyes against the light of the lantern he carried.
Wellard moved a little ahead of him as he neared his object, taking the lantern towards the face of the prisoner before Hornblower got there, to give him the best possible view of the man. But nothing could have sufficiently prepared him for what he saw. A thin chest heaved, taking huge breaths, and even in the light of Wellard's lantern, the man's skin was grey with cold and exhaustion and his long hair hung in limp strands around his face.
The prisoner turned his head tiredly towards Hornblower, and he found himself looking into familiar blue eyes, and at a warm, genuine smile of pleasure. "Horatio." The name breathed in relief and joy. A hand rested weakly on his arm. "I thought this may be purgatory, again; but here is heaven!" And Archie Kennedy laughed at his own joke.

 

CHAPTER ONE: OUR TRUE FRIEND

The usual form would be to have Kennedy's body dumped into an unmarked pauper's grave in Kingston. Prayers would be said quickly by a priest with whom none of them were acquainted. But they did not protest or interfere when Lt. Hornblower and Lt. Bush ordered a plain coffin, and a tombstone, bearing names and dates, no ranks, and only the honour of being labelled 'Our True Friend, Archer A. Kennedy'. Commodore Pellew had made it his gift to see that these small gestures went unspoiled by stuffy senior officers.
The funeral had been wrong. Grief and anger had boiled inside Hornblower since he had sat by Archie as he died from that cruel gun-shot wound, and he warred with it nearly constantly, since. At the funeral it reached such a pitch than he could barely see straight and heard nothing but the pounding of blood in his ears. And so it was that he thought himself at fault when the coffin seemed just too large for Archie; he couldn't help but recall the number of times Archie had lamented his height, and his mathematical eye told him that the coffin was too large.
Bush, too, fixed his gaze on the plain wooden box, frowning down upon it as it was lowered into the grave, overlooking the bay, and Hornblower found only the barest moment to wonder whether similar feelings were raging within the older Lieutenant.
'Our True Friend, Archer A. Kennedy'.
Pellew had read the service. He did not read it quickly, with the usual resignation of speaking the words for goodness knew how many times over countless bodies, but carefully, and with feeling.
And all the time, the coffin was too big. Too big to hold the smaller, slighter body of his closest friend; and he noticed because, ironically, rather than feel that Kennedy was short, Hornblower always felt over-sized when he was with him. Aboard Justinian, and at El Ferrol, Kennedy had been almost scrawny, but although his body grew stronger with his service aboard Indefatigable, and later on Renown, he had retained a certain elegant slenderness. The coffin was too big; too tall, too long and too wide.
Perhaps it was all his own and Bush's reserves at the time could manage to purchase, although it didn't seem badly made or shoddy work. Perhaps coffins came in some 'standard size' in Kingston; perhaps they hadn't had access to Archie's body to measure him, and Hornblower didn't care enough to enquire as to this anomaly.
God ­ Archie was dead, and here he was giving a damn about the box they buried him in.
Yet the feeling of 'wrong' persisted from that day, and some deeply buried part of him could never quite believe Archie was not coming back. Bush agreed to it, as well, offering the comfort that he felt the same way, but that he had also felt the same about other late friends: part of him always expected to see them walk through a door. Yes ­ sometimes Hornblower still expected to see Clayton, and he had been closer to Archie than Clayton. So it was only natural.
Damn the coffin.
It wasn't important.

Weakness as Kennedy had never felt it before pervaded his entire world. Not after beatings, or fits or any other injury had he felt so utterly and completely drained and unable to function. Not at El Ferrol; not on Justinian. He was reasonably sure he was conscious, but opening his eyes seemed like too grand an ambition.
The wound in his chest, the pain of which he was all too used to, felt different. Instead of the dull, persistent ache, there was a finer, more precise sting, although it hurt no less for that. Ironically, he hoped he was still dying, because the gallows was going to be no pretty death, and this would be so much easier. Besides, he doubted Bush would have let him go ahead and confess if he had the slightest faith that Kennedy would survive.
His mission was over; there was no chance of retrieving the plans while mortally wounded in a hospital bed, and there was no telling where the plans were after he had been taken back to his cabin. Besides, he had other concerns at that point, and no opportunity to execute his other orders.
'Execute' ­ not a good word to think about, right now. He shuddered involuntarily.
"Rest easy," a voice said, so softly it may have been an illusion, though the hand on his shoulder felt real enough. He rested, because he wasn't strong enough to do anything else.
"I've removed the bullet, and done what I can." The familiar, warm tones of Dr. Sebastian reached him through the heavy, lethargic weakness. "But we can't risk moving him; it could prove fatal. It's hardly the most comfortable bed, but he should stay here. He must be kept still if he is to heal; the stitching is very delicate, and if allowed to tear, I doubt the bleeding could be stopped."
The second voice he also recognised ­ it was Commodore Pellew's. "And if I have to move him? He may be in some danger, you know."
"Then it won't matter," came the resigned response. Kennedy considered, briefly, that they must be talking about him, but could not muster energy enough to be worried. "If he has a fit," his doctor and friend continued. "Tie him to the bed."
He had to laugh at that - he couldn't help it; there was something so incongruous with the recommendation. He would have expected that sort of irrepressible stupidity from Hepplewhite's uncaring and backward treatments; or perhaps from Clive's irresponsible drunkenness, but from the kindly, sympathetic Luis Sebastian, it was funny ­ tie him down: priceless. The restraining hand was back on his shoulder; more firmly this time, just before the sting in his chest reached a new intensity.
"Lie still, and that's an order, Mr. Kennedy!" Pellew told him. And the order was all right by him; he didn't want to move, anyway, and gradually he forgot why he was laughing and what he had found so amusing. Kennedy felt there were other things he should be remembering, too, but thinking was becoming, like moving, too much effort.
The next several days passed in a strange haze of irregular sleeping and waking. Water and occasionally broth were forced between his lips and Kennedy quickly discovered that Pellew was not a very good nurse, when the doctor himself was absent. Despite the fact that he was extremely patient, Pellew seemed hardly to know how to minister to a sick man. How opposite to Horatio, who had been so very impatient, but still careful and caring in his ministrations at El Ferrol.
At some point he managed to enquire, "trial?", although later could not remember when. The reply was, however, important enough to recall, and to satisfy him at least to the safety of Hornblower, Bush and young Wellard. The worst casualty was Buckland, whose career was effectively over; over enough for the man to be removed from the Navy. He had tried to have Hornblower blamed for the affair; there was no choice for him but to accept the suggestion that he resign. So resigned he had.
"You saved your shipmates from the gallows, Mister Kennedy," he was told. "You did more than I could have expected. Go back to sleep." It was easier to sleep knowing they were safe.
He came properly awake for the first time in goodness knew how long, during another visit of the doctor. He was initially roused by the incredible pain in his chest, and kept awake while the tall, grey-haired man warned him to stay still while he worked.
By the time he had stopped treating the wound, Kennedy was confident he was going to die after all; he must be dying ­ he couldn't hurt this much and live, surely! It might even be pleasant to die when the burning sensation in his chest persisted, even when the doctor had finished. He lay back, gasping for breath, eyes closed and tears stinging behind his eye-lids, as though there were smoke in them. Surely it couldn't be long, now. God, he hoped it wouldn't be long
"He will live, I think!" Sebastian said, strong relief in his tone.
Not possible, surely! Please ­ not possible!
"No more drugs; he has had enough of them and lost enough blood without complicating the issue. It's going to make an interesting scar."
"Thank you, Doctor," Pellew's voice said. "I appreciate everything you've done for him; coming so far..."
"Not at all, Commodore. He has been an excellent patient as always; I just thank God I could get here in time. If you'll excuse me, I ought to clean up"
Kennedy let his head fall to the side in order to look at the doctor as he thanked him, but the words died on his lips, as he saw the still-straight back and long, now-silver hair bound in it's queue vanishing through the door. Surely Dr. Sebastian knew about Kennedy's engagement with the gallows one dawn ­ surely he hadn't been so cruel as to save him, just so he could hang.
At least I shall be alone; at least I shall not have to think of something cheerful to say to Horatio, William, or poor Wellard, as they stood beside me. I would feel obliged to comfort them with some funny remark. I prefer to be spared that responsibility; I might not be able to think of anything.
He smiled through gritted teeth at his own exaggerated view of his worth, and had to inhale sharply as the half-laugh strained damaged tissue, that continued to burn unbearably.
"God-damn, stubborn fool," Pellew cursed, coming into the field of Kennedy's vision. He frowned down at the young lieutenant and "stay still, goddamn you!" he shouted. Then he took to pacing, every so often glancing back at Kennedy.
Did he expect some response? Kennedy had always admired Pellew, but could never be entirely confident with him. Aboard Indefatigable, Pellew would pace and frown, and glance at him, and Kennedy would be silent until Pellew would roar "have you nothing to say, sir?". Or Pellew would pace and frown, and glance at him, and Kennedy would begin to report, until Pellew roared for silence. Hornblower seemed to have the measure of him; and was quiet or talkative as appropriate. Kennedy was used to being more confident than his friend, socially; that Horatio could read the Commodore better than he could was a puzzle.
So that Commodore Pellew had trusted him with a mission over Horatio had been doubly surprising. Because he could be secreted aboard a vessel for some discrete training, and because he spoke both French and Spanish near fluently, apparently, but Hornblower had been learning since El Ferrol and was not hopeless at either language. In fact, although he always included Kennedy in phrases such as 'valued officers', Pellew had never seemed to notice him. Later, he realised that Horatio's sense of honour wouldn't allow for the task Pellew set him, even if it was for the greater good of England; the Commodore didn't dare subject his protégé to the dangers of the mission, especially with various superior eyes focused on his career. Kennedy, on the other hand, had no family or ties to consider, and he was not especially marked for promotion beyond being a Lieutenant by anybody in the Admiralty. He was Pellew's safer choice.
"Sir?" he whispered. His voice sounded unreliable, and he hadn't used it in so long, it was a miracle he could speak at all.
"Yes, Mister Kennedy?"
"I'm sorry I failed you, sir," he apologised. Better to get everything he needed to say, said before his execution.
"Sorry you failed me, sir?" Pellew snapped. Oh, God ­ had he spoken when he should have been silent, again? "Sorry you failed me, before you have even completed your mission? I think little of your confidence, man; and I was used to thinking of you as an optimist!"
Pellew paused, paced and frowned, looked out of the window, paced again and looked down at him, a little more kindly than before. "Come, now, Mister Kennedy ­ I expect better of you than to give up the mission because of onesetback."
'Setback' is an interesting description for being hung, Kennedy thought, impudently. The pain in his chest was receding somewhat, now, but it was dragging the now-familiar fatigue in its wake. Light-headedness was preventing him from focusing properly on the discussion. What had the Commodore said? He wasn't to give up his mission? Surely it was too late, by now.
Pellew sat down, giving Kennedy an easier time of looking up at him.
"I have spent a small fortune dragging a doctor across the seas in order to treat you; who might be an excellent doctor, but whose company was damnably dull, on this occasion, considering that he spoke of nearly nothing except how he intended to keep you alive, ask after Mister Hornblower and curse Doctor Clive's abilities! I did not go to all that inconvenience for you to be sorry for failing me, sir!"
"But I confessed to pushing Captain Sawyer, sir. I'll hang for it." Kennedy tried to remain calm as he recited his own impending punishment, and was glad his voice was wavering enough with weakness, for the apprehension not to show.
"The Admiralty might be particular creatures, Lieutenant, but they don't bother hanging men who have already died."
The implications sank in slowly. He had wanted to remain conscious and clear-minded as he spoke to Horatio for the last time, so refused all Clive's offers of morphine and laudanum. Yet just before his friend visited him, Clive helped him drink some water and he could taste the stuff, despite his wishes. Horatio hadn't objected on his behalf when he made his displeasure known or had it been Pellew's orders? Keeping him aliveto complete the mission. Of course, Hornblower was utterly trustworthy; Commodore Pellew could trust him! And instead of feeling pangs of regret when he thought of Horatio, Kennedy suddenly felt an inner warmth; gratified that his friend might know something of what he had been doing on the Renown ­ that Kennedy was a capable agent for England. If Horatio's affection for him ran only half so deep as Kennedy's own for his friend, then Horatio would be proud of him. He found he was smiling.
Pellew's mouth twisted in an attempt not to return the gesture. "Yes ­ I read your funeral rites myself. You might be pleased to know that Commander Hornblower, and Lieutenant Bush had some very kind things to say about you! They even paid for your tombstone, and I hadn't the heart to stop them."
Horatio promoted! Kennedy's grin widened. And it was just like them to think of adding that touch to the ruse; somehow people were less willing to argue with a tombstone than with an unmarked grave. If he were to continue as Commodore Pellew's agent, it would be far easier if he were known to be dead and disgraced. He was about to say as much, but was interrupted by a yawn that ignited the burning through his chest, again; would he ever be able to do more than breathe without that infernal pain?
Pellew cleared his throat. "Yes, well ­ better that you rest for now, Mister Kennedy. We can establish the details later on." He patted the lieutenant's shoulder, and Kennedy realised that he was genuinely exhausted.
But he also felt much better.

 

CHAPTER TWO: THE EARL OF CASSILLIS

"How can you be sure we're not too late, though, sir?" Kennedy asked. Then he closed his eyes and tightened his jaw against saying more. Confinement was making him irritable; that his health had so improved over the last month, but seemed unable to improve any more had frustrated him. Pellew criticised him for trying to exercise too much and eat too little (informing him that it was a bad habit he must have acquired on the Justinian, since he had definitely brought it to the Indefatigable as well). Then, rather than support him ­ the doctor's patient and friend ­ Sebastian sided with Commodore Pellew.
Pellew sighed. Kennedy knew he was pressing this point a great deal, but until the Commodore gave him a satisfactory answer, he couldn't believe that the situation was as simple as retrieving information.
"I'm reluctant to reveal the identity of the Navy's other agents, since this mission is quite absent from any record," Pellew said at last. "But I have managed to arrange for certain parties to bid for the plans in this 'preliminary' period, so extending this ridiculousauctionfor want of a better term. As it is, we could never afford to purchase the dock plans back, but I hope that by procrastinating, we can buy enough time for you to retrieve them.
"I'm also having forgeries made, either for you to use to replace the dispatches once you have them, or perhaps to put out as 'rivals' for the genuine ones to add to the confusion and buy us more time. But that must be your decision, once you have established how matters may best be served."
"Aye-aye, sir," Kennedy nodded, as he frowned over his maps and books with resignation.
During the brief uprising of their Spanish prisoners on Renown, Kennedy had discovered that the documents he had been trying to retrieve for Commodore Pellew had been stolen from the Captain's quarters before he had chance to remove them, himself. The culprit was still unknown, and could be either Spanish or French, (though the former was more likely).
Before boarding Renown, Commodore Pellew had given him orders over and above those standard issues from the Royal Navy. It had required him to serve the first year of his Lieutenancy aboard Swiftsure for a while, as a British agent aboard that ship taught him what he could of the spying business. His promotion made his transfer less suspicious. Pellew had been given reason to believe that an enemy agent was aboard Renown, and while he had not been too concerned at that time since spies were known to be everywhere, Captain Sawyer had refused to believe him, or listen to his concerns. It was Pellew who wondered whether Sawyer might be the enemy agent himself, and since the Captain had been entrusted with the delivery of planned defences at the new Cramond Harbour to the Admirals at Kingston, his passing these dispatches to any enemy of England would be a disaster of unparalleled proportions.
That Sawyer was insane, sufficiently paranoid to believe Pellew to be against him, as well as his officers, added tremendous complications to a mission Kennedy had not felt ready for, anyway. His over-done security arrangements had made it impossible for Kennedy to quietly steal the plans, planting false ones in their place and then deliver the genuine articles himself with Pellew's letter of recommendation. Events, as he had assured the others, had over-taken them; and although he had not forgotten nor abandoned his mission, then, he had been forced to pay attention to other matters. The theft became utterly impossible after his own injury, ironically as he had been wondering whether he could sneak away in the confusion of battle to retrieve them. It was the reason he was careless enough to get shot!
Now the papers were in possession of a Frenchman, whose own plans were to sell them to any enemy of England for a very tidy profit, or so Pellew informed him.
So confessing to Sawyer's fallit had been all he had left to offer, or so he thought. He had no faith in his survival; Clive gave him no reason to hope, and neither did the realistic Bush. Pellew was plagued by no illusions and only Horatio had seemed to think he might pull through. Ironic that while Horatio was right, it was his most devoted doubter (Pellew) who arranged the matter. And he did not want to bring out the letter that gave him such broad discretion to retrieve the plans 'in whatever manner it was possible to employ'. He didn't want Pellew's career to suffer, either. And what did a career matter to a dead man?
Damn Sawyer for his madness, he thought, irrationally and with uncharacteristic stricture. He had felt sorry for the honoured Captain and his insanity; wished he could be treated with more pity and care, although had not dared suggest it, as Clive was too devoted to the man, and Hobbs an actual danger for them to allow leniency. Up to the end he felt sorry; for stupid Sawyer, who had seen conspiracy, cover-ups and plots in every corner. Kennedy had never even managed to find out who the agent had been, even though it was only of secondary concern.
But it was a godsend that the agent aboard Renown had not been a dedicated spy, but a mercenary; in the business of information gathering in order for his employers to sell it to whoever would pay the highest price. Unfortunately, the documents had been given over to an agent who was patriotic enough to sell only to the enemies of England.
The book slammed shut in front of him, and he looked up, startled.
"Enough study, Mister Kennedy," Pellew said, more gently. He found himself in that uncomfortable position of not knowing whether he should speak or not. Oh, no ­ the Commodore was sitting down; they were going to have a 'conversation', and in Kennedy's experience, these 'conversations' never quite went the way he intended. He always felt that Pellew left with an erroneous and disappointed view of him.
"There is no point in you going to France if you believe it to be too late, already," Pellew's tone was rougher; more as it had been on Indefatigable. "And there is no point in continuing if you feel the situation hopeless."
"I think that with a more capable agent-" he started, but was prevented by the Commodore's silencing hand.
"Do you not consider yourself capable, sir? You did well enough before you were shot, or did the bullet steal your wits as well as your health, sir?"
"At present," Kennedy tried to explain, hoping he did not look as hurt by the remark as he felt, "I cannot walk the length of the corridor without pain and difficulty. What chance would I have in France? We are running out of time, sir, and whether some can be bought may not be enough. I do not feel that I am recovering with any speed; and what I gain is gained too slowly." He looked away. "There is nothing wrong with my courage, sir, only my fitness for the task. I would leave in the hour if you asked it."
"I know you would," Pellew consoled; but he was not comforted in the least by it. Had the Commodore even heard what he had said, or was he too busy thinking on how to manage the only agent he had been able to acquire? "You can recover, Mister Kennedy, and you will. Why, a month ago you could not stand, never mind walk or even dress yourself!"
Kennedy looked down. He was not in uniform and probably never would be again (unless he was discovered, and they may demand it for his sentence).
But to try and retrieve the papers in his current state of health was ridiculous.
"Here's something to bolster you," Pellew said. "Do you not see that by retrieving the plans Sawyer had, you and I have proof of your innocence?"
No, thought Kennedy. I do not see. "Sir; the confession I made was to pushing Captain Sawyer into the hold. No show of papers will erase that deed, or rescind my admission! And if it did ­ they'd simply hold another trial; they might recall Cmd. Hornblower; or Lt. BushMr. Wellard. It would put them all at risk again, and I-I cannot, sir. Please don't ask that of me."
"But it proves that it was not for mutiny, sir. It was Buckland who gained command, not you, and his reputation and career are already beyond redemption; the action would never have done anything to benefit you, and quite the opposite, but if a tribunal upheld that the action was taken for the good of England, sir, and was necessary for England. That you did as you must, knowing you would be severely dealt with may be sufficient to buy back your commission. And the price may be more adequately covered with the recovery of the documents in question. The Navy has dealt with matters discretely before; they would have hung Horatio to cover Sawyer's madness because they needed Sawyer to have lived and died a hero. That need will lessen in the present climate; others might be persuaded that Sawyer was the unhappy sacrifice in this matter, and that you were the unwilling instrument of it. Yes, so you pushed him into the hold; reluctantly ­ for England! The current peace will give us more time for your recovery. A lack of war means lack of interest in information - at least in some areas. We have time."
Kennedy considered. Pellew had a point; no ­ he didn't benefit in any way, save the possible retrieval of the documents Sawyer had planned to give the agent aboard the Renown; and that was the defence on which a new case could be built. 'Sawyer was dangerous' might be more acceptable to the court martial than 'Sawyer was insane' and be just enough for his own part to be overlooked in light of such damaging information having failed to fall into enemy hands.
Could it? He wondered. Could he return to the Navy a commissioned Lieutenant?
It was something to strive for, surely? And Pellew would not put him in court without a very good chance of success ­ he could always remain dead until the time was right. Any retrieval would take some time, as it was, and the climate could change again. Nobody expected this peace to last; they only hoped.
"I'm expected for dinner," Pellew said, consulting his time-piece. "Try to relax this evening, Mister Kennedy; we can begin anew tomorrow." His expression was frustrated, and his tone leaked that familiar note of disappointment Kennedy was so used to hearing. Was he ever going to fail to disappoint the Commodore, he wondered. He never felt that he parted company with the Commodore, even on Indefatigable, without feeling as though a meeting had gone badly.
And so he found himself slowly giving into despair after Pellew left. Only his days on Justinian and in El Ferrol compared to the ache in his chest that had nothing to do with the bullet wound.
No lovely Kitty Cobham here, though, to lift my spirits, he thought, ruefully.
Kitty Cobhamthe actress
The seed of an insane idea was planted in his mind, and he wrestled with it for the next four hours in the enforced solitude. At first, it was pulled up and discarded as a weed; unworthy, nay ­ foolish! But as he studied the maps, despite Pellew's order that he relax, and French lexicon
I can't pass for French because I don't know enough about them, or Spanish, since I'm too fair; I don't think I could pass for anyone who has legitimate business in France, either! I don't look well enough like a Spaniard
The DuchessKitty Cobhamnow - she passed for Her Grace.
And when Pellew returned in the evening, Kennedy found that the little, mad, seed had borne fruit and flowers that were now blossoming wildly out of control. A display of colour that he intended the Commodore to see.

Unhappy at having to leave Kennedy in such low spirits, and now irritated by the fool's errand he had found himself on over dinner, Pellew returned to the house in a very black mood! The uneasy peace was growing yet less easy, but no more ships would be returned to service; no more excellent and loyal crew recalled to take action against England's enemies. No full pay for deserving men. God it was frustrating ­ not only knowing that the enemy was preparing, but the constant procrastination on both sides! Open warfare had always been good enough, before, and yet now the politicians were dancing around this and that 'sensitive issue'. They would not even prepare!
He fully intended to take out his temper on Kennedy. He would not allow any self-pity or feelings of worthlessness to plague the man any longer; it was time he took some responsibility and a more active role in his own recovery and Pellew was going to start on him tonight. He would bully, shame and frighten Kennedy into greater efforts, if that was what it took, and his restless agitation was just up for such a challenge. At least this was one frustration he could batter out with some good results, unlike his dinner!
He burst into Kennedy's room without knocking, thinking he had probably retired, and was in the sleeping chamber beyond, but the mere sight of the room stopped him. The curtains were still open, very late, and the candles and lamps were lit, as well as the fire, even though it was perfectly warm without it. A figure sat at the desk, and had availed himself of the comfortable chair from by the fire, rather than using the desk-chair, which was now placed against the wall.
Any firelight had a strange way of highlighting red and copper in Kennedy's otherwise dark-blond hair, and this betrayed the identity of the figure at the desk. The Commodore walked around to face him, and stopped again when he saw Kennedy, especially as he looked up and regarded Pellew's gaze with a confidence he had never seen in the younger man before ­ the confidence of a man who considered himself an equal!
Kennedy wore smart civilian clothing; plain breeches, a crisp white shirt and a white neckcloth tied in navy style. His jacket had a severe cut and was only a few shades paler than navy blue, and his hair was tied in it's usual queue, but in the slightly untidy way he had worn it as a midshipman, rather than the neater effort of a Lieutenant; and the ribbon that held it was black instead of navy-blue. Pellew couldn't think what had got into him ­ he looked like a civilian pretending that he was a naval officer, as best his wardrobe would allow.
The French lexicon, and books about French protocol and militia were placed very firmly at the edge of the far bureau, leaving only maps and plans spread across the desk.
"Mr. Kennedy?"
"Sir Edward ­ good evening," Kennedy replied with the dismissive air of an aristocrat speaking to a mere 'sir'. "And I should thank you to recall my position!"
Anger that had only been allowed to simmer over dinner threatened to boil, momentarily robbing him of speech. Kennedy did have aristocratic ties, but three men needed to die before his Lieutenant would see any such title. So unless his absence had brought Kennedy news of a very tragic and highly unlikely mishap, then he had no position for 'Sir Edward' to recall!
And what was that faint, soft accent he was affecting? Had the man lost his wits after all?
But before he could begin any kind of reprimand, Kennedy dared to turn away from him.
"Now ­ as to these papers you were telling me ofmost intriguing, Sir Edward, most intriguing. And to a man in my situation, quite invaluable-" he broke of in a hoarse coughing fit, spoiling the soft-Scott's lilt. Pellew quickly filled a glass of water from the carafe and forced Kennedy to hold it in the hand the Commodore had to prise off the chair-arm. Whatever madness had possessed the Lieutenant, he was determined at least, than Kennedy should live, and considered calling on Dr. Sebastian.
Kennedy recovered enough to take a few delicate sips and the choking subsided. "I thank you," he said. "These papers are most intriguing, yes." It was as though the coughing fit had never happened ­ or that he was so used to them that he dismissed them on an every-day basis. "And I think I should like to acquire them. Myemployerhas given me very a broad spectrum in which to negotiate, and I believe these plans would be most useful to him. Yes ­ most useful, indeed."
It was not until that moment that Pellew realised he could stop worrying for the Lieutenant's mental capacity ­ he was play-acting for the Commodore's benefit. A shade of the real Kennedy was only just starting to creep into his eyes. Apprehension, that perhaps he had gone too far: uncertainty, that he had not been convincing: fear, that Pellew was about to give him the dressing-down of his life. Disappointment and defeat were just about to make their debut, if Pellew was any judge, and he sought to stop the light in his charge's eyes from dying completely by blurting the first thing that came to mind.
"Good god, man, you should be on the stage!" he managed.
Rather than being rewarded with Kennedy's usual blushing smile, he raised a finger superiorly and said in a soft, good-humoured admonishment, "that is 'good god,* my lord,* you should be on the stage'!"
Then he straightened from a slightly hunched position that Pellew had barely registered, and became properly himself again. "I think it could work, sir," he offered. "The Scottish aristocrat, in ill-health so not perceived as any threat. Perhaps with some disposable wealth?
"If our mercenary is more interested in money then patriotism, perhaps he wouldn't care if the papers were sold to a different enemy of England, for a different reason, but one which removed him from suspicion. If I can persuade this broker that any pursuit would be called off if the Scottish had the plans, he might consider it worth a lesser price, especially if he believed he was in some danger from another English agent. Perhaps perhaps somebody who is trained as an assassinsomeone to replace the hapless Lt. Kennedy."
Pellew stood up and paced. He could find immediate arguments against the revision to the plan; possible holes in Kennedy's brief statement, but it was not a wild, unconsidered notion on Kennedy's part ­ he had taken the time to dress himself and set the stage; down to the comfortable chair and rejecting utterly that literature an aristocrat on such business wouldn't need ­ or at least, wouldn't believe himself to need.
And had Pellew himself not noticed, even as he entered, that Kennedy was dressed like a civilian who wished he held a naval commission?
If Kennedy was in better health than the act suggested would also serve him well, since he could recover more in time. He still looked ill, more because he was denied the exercise in fresh air and sunshine that he obviously craved, even though they dare not let him walk abroad for fear he would be recognised.
"They could check aristocracy too easily," he pointed out.
"And they would find the tenth Earl of Cassillis, Richard Kennedy. A man of ill health and an estate to rescue from the poor management of his ancestors. One who is disappointed in his cousin's failure to obtain the documents, perhaps. The French listen to rumour as keenly as ourselves, sir."
Although he could easily begin a few rumours, the rest was too great a demand on Pellew's resources (though a thorough and convincing biography, he had to admit. Kennedy had quite the imagination!), he couldn't arrange to create such an identity. Not covertly. "It could not be arranged without placing this operation in the hands of the Admirals," he said, with regret.
"Sir ­ I really speak of my cousin," Kennedy said, enthusiastically. "There is nothing to arrange as he already exists; perhaps I have lied here about his interests; I suppose he is more frail than sickly; he is taller and a little older, but that isn't insurmountable! And we do look something alike. And our grandfather really did ruin the estates. He is trying to build them up, again."
"And if they make enquiries?"
"They would likely go through another Mr. Kennedy, attorney, and my cousin's agent. He is our mutual cousin, in fact, and I could provide his direction. It should only be a matter of intercepting his correspondence."
Pellew hated to bring up the rather more delicate matter of the familial fracas he was vaguely aware of in Kennedy's family, but he needed to be sure that this was not going to condemn his agent. The Lieutenant seemed to understand what he was about to say.
"Sir ­ the family problem was between the brothers who were our fathers. Lord Cassillis does not dislike me enough to put me in such peril; especially if his attorney could tell him of the circumstances; that I am in service to my country and could clear my disgraced name, besides. Lord Cassillis also paid for what I needed as Midshipman on the death of my own parents, and arranged my position on Justinian. While we are not in touch, neither have we taken up our fathers' enmity."
"But why would a Scottish aristocrat be interested in a handful of defence plans?" the Commodore asked.
So Kennedy told him.
And Pellew began to think that Kennedy's plan might just work.

 

CHAPTER THREE: MEETING TREVELLIAN
AN ­ Cramond is a real place in Scotland, but there have never been genuine plans to build a harbour there that I know of. Leith, out of Edinburgh, was Scotland's main port. In some places, history has supported this story line, but one or two liberties have been taken, and some aspects are complete fiction.

The journey to France had been a wretched one, felt Kennedy, by the voyage's end. Only a week after explaining the finer details of his plan to Pellew, the Commodore had booked him passage under his pseudonym, and put him aboard the vessel that would take him to Bordeaux, in the care of Dr. Sebastian. The doctor would remain at the French port, leaving Kennedy to go on alone, but at least a contact should things go wrong. And rather than study the lexicons further (as his French was more than good enough to pass for any British aristocrat) or maps, he had concentrated on regaining as much of his health as he possibly could.
At first, being at sea again, even if only as a passenger, had worked miracles for his health. His chest felt strangely tight, but not painful, and Dr. Sebastian assured him that once his body was used to the scar-tissue, now that the ligatures had been removed, this sensation would fade. He was no longer as weak, though still not as fit as he had been before Renown; but certainly his health gave Kennedy no cause for additional worry. Fresh air and walks on deck, as often as he could manage it, ensured that he was no longer breathless after even minor activity.
However, as the voyage continued, and he watched men climbing the rigging; and heard officers of the watch shouting orders, Kennedy suddenly felt his loss. Here he was, at sea, and no longer part of it. Lord 'Richard' Kennedy was the man aboard this ship, just in case enquiries were made to the crew, and he found the act as easy to slip into as he would his uniform. His cousin's nautical interest came in useful whenever he slipped up and knew too much about the ship, and it allowed him to neglect learning the new French fashions, as he took the liberty of dressing as near to the navy as possible for a civilian.
Lord Cassillis really would have joined the Navy if his health had permitted; and Kennedy would have received no charity from his cousin except it be purchase into the Navy. Over time, Lord Cassillis had become less interested in nautical matters, although he still purchased the Naval Chronicle and kept himself apprised of the latest news. He was not quite the fanatic that Kennedy was playing, but it was too useful a ruse; one he could play without training and use to cover any mistakes he made, to not use it.
He was also careful to keep out of the sun, and took his walks only in cloudy weather or at night, to ensure that he still looked sickly. Poor health would cover his genuine complaints (ones that would fall under suspicion if he became acquainted with anyone with experience of bullet wounds) and make him less of a threat to those he dealt with, but his sharp business sense would not appear too incongruous. After all, he was supposed to be a man used to coping with both illness and a failing estate, and both of these familiar territory.
That himself and Dr. Sebastian were friends was also kept quiet. They had pretended that the doctor treated him in port, and put himself at Lord Cassillis's disposal during the voyage for substantial payment, upon finding themselves ship-mates. It was not an especially noteworthy circumstance, particularly when Dr. Sebastian was going to remain in Bordeaux while Kennedy journeyed on, thus removing any more than a professional relationship between them. That, of course, had been conditional on Kennedy being fit enough to continue without him.
It was a triumph that there had been no setbacks or new complications to plague them, but now that initial victory was won, Kennedy began to feel very nervous about the situation. Pellew had insisted that he remain 'in character' during the last week in Kingston, and that practice had it's uses, since there were few men whom he admired more than Pellew. Treating Pellew as an equal, and occasionally as something a little lower, gave him the confidence that he could use his ruse with strangers, for whom he had no respect at all. That had taken more getting used to than he suspected the scar-tissue would: to treat Pellew as below him. Horatio would never have believed him capable, and he made a mental note to laugh about that particular element of his adventures with his friend. It would be his reward to himself for success, Kennedy promised himself.
The ship came into harbour without incident, and Kennedy managed to procrastinate enough to disembark when darkness had fallen. He was a nervous wreck, by now, but with enough possession of himself to continue, regardless. Now, on foreign soil, which he could not help but feel was unfriendly, he was less sure and felt so cut off and alone. He had taken Dr. Sebastian's company on the voyage too much for granted, and now a cold, professional farewell awaited them, for the benefits of any potential witnesses.
"I thank you for all that you have done," he said to the doctor, hoping that his carelessly benign tone was ignored, and that Sebastian listened to his words, which were heartfelt, at least. "And I should be pleased to renew our acquaintance if ever you are in the region," he added, just in case they needed to meet later on.
"I am glad to have been of service to you, my Lord. Please do not hesitate to contact me again should you require me," Sebastian answered, formally. "And a pleasant journey, sir."
Kennedy nodded sharply, in polite acknowledgement, before turning away and entering his carriage, sparing no further attention for the doctor. It was difficult to treat him with such disregard, and he found himself hoping he got the chance to make up for it, despite Sebastian knowing precisely what he was about.

The chateau was a heavy-looking building, made oppressive and gothic by the persistent rain, although Kennedy could not imagine it being a much pleasanter sight in fair weather. True to his act, he descended slowly and stiffly from the coach, leaning heavily on the man who put his hand up to help, and feigning reliance on the elegant cane he carried. Keeping his mind on such details kept it off the gnawing nervousness in his stomach. May god help him if he was offered supper - he doubted he could force it down. Still, that might suit his sickly aspect; if he could not manage more than a few mouthfuls.
He was conducted to a drawing room that was stiflingly warm with a roaring fire in the grate and candles and lamps. He pretended to be grateful for the heat, letting out a small sigh, as though relaxing into it. He was announced as Lord Cassillis, and a tall, wiry man some ten years his senior rose from a comfortable chair and extended his hand. Kennedy ensured that his own grip was rather feeble, to appear as little physically threatening as possible, and did not turn his cane over to his guide.
"Please, my lord, you must be tired - will you come near the fire?" His host's voice was pleasant and smooth, and although he spoke English with a discernable French accent, his mastery of the language was apparently superior to Kennedy's grasp of French. He had concentrated on understanding, rather than speaking, French as it was not consistent for a Scottish aristocrat to be too good at any language save his own.
"Thank you, monsieur," he answered properly, "that would be most welcome." Actually, he would rather be as far from the heat as he could manage.
He settled himself in the second chair, and kept the cane nearby. It had been Pellew's idea; since he couldn't carry a sword openly, nor conceal a pistol, his weaponry consisted only of short knives that he could conceal, and a good blade in the cane. In his persona as a pretender to naval glory, even if the secret of the cane were discovered, it may be put down to his desire to be stronger, and no worse than jeered at behind his back as a pretentious piece of nonsense.
"So," his host began, offering him wine, "the French monarchy, the French army, the French fleet, the French revolutionaries, the Spanish fleet, the Spanish diplomats, and the Spanish army all want these papers, as do the Irish insurgents, the British government and assorted militia. And now a lone man has come all the way here to enter his own bid. You will allow me to be curious, I'm sure."
Kennedy made a kind of half-bow of acknowledgement, letting an ironic smile touch his lips. "And I am sure, monsieur, that I am not the only private bidder," he observed, and was rewarded by an answering smile of acknowledgement.
"Of course," responded his host. "But my business depends on such people trusting me to keep their confidence - as I will keep yours, Lord Cassillis."
"I am very grateful, monsieur," Kennedy replied, and coughed into his handkerchief. The affected illness was a useful cover when he didn't know what to say, or he wished to linger in a given place, so it would do no harm to begin establishing it early on. Monsieur Trevellian looked at him in concern, and Kennedy thought that he would not have to pretend a weak, hoarse voice for long; all this forced hacking would make his throat raw.
"Excuse me," he apologised, negligently.
"And what is your interest in these dispatches?" Trevellian demanded. "England already has her negotiators - and a number of agents - trying to retrieve them. It seems odd that they should send another."
Kennedy allowed a coolness to penetrate his tone. "I am not England's agent, monsieur," he said.
"Oh, then forgive me, Lord Cassillis. But you must understand that I am still something of a patriot, and I will not see these items fall into hands that are friendly to England."
"Neither am I England's friend, monsieur," Kennedy assured him, again.
"Indeed they have not been very generous to your attempts to rebuild your estates," agreed Trevellian.
Kennedy was not very surprised to find that this man had done some research on him, but the remark heralded the most difficult part of the deception. He feigned some surprise, however. "They have not," he said, stiffly. "However, not only the Irish have been repressed beneath England's desire for dominance. But perhaps the mists over the highlands have obscured Scotland from the notice of the rest of the world. Certainly, we are not currently perceived as any threat."
Trevellian's eyebrows rose in surprise. Had he overdone the vehemence? "I represent the interests of Scotland, monsieur," Kennedy added. "Not England."
"'The interests of Scotland?'" Trevellian repeated. "Does Scotland intend to invade her neighbour?"
Kennedy allowed himself to smile. "Not invade," he corrected. "I hope we are more subtle than that. Sadly not every Scot knows where his interests lie; and many have lost hope, but I do not think we shall need an army; not with other conditions in our favour."
"Such as plans of the proposed harbour into Cramond? There is a great deal of interest in such a daring project: quite a fantastic challenge to the architects, I understand." Trevellian speculated. "Especially when his Britannic Majesty intends to use such a port as a military base, rather than a merchant one? Would trade not benefit Scotland?"
"Regardless of Scotland's view on the matter, the port is intended for the militia," Kennedy said, uncomfortable, and trying to hide it behind a veneer of superiority. At least his act was being supported by circumstance; supposed ill-health covered genuine ailments and he had coughs to delay a reply. He could also be angry and agitated and try to hide it behind a façade of superiority and confidence that was not entirely convincing, he knew. But that did not signify; how was Trevellian to know such an act concealed nerves and uncertainty rather than anger and bitterness? And the more weaknesses Lord Cassillis had, the better Kennedy liked it.
"Do you think you could prevent such building, just by having the plans?" Trevellian enquired, conversationally.
"The purpose to which I intend to put these papers is not your concern, monsieur, only the price that I am willing to pay for them," Kennedy answered, quietly.
"But it is," Trevellian responded, a little more crisply. Some of the pretence at civility was being dropped and Kennedy wasn't sure whether he was pleased by this or not. Gentlemanly behaviour was something Kennedy employed constantly ­ whether aboard ship, on shore, in every part of his life; so much so that it had long since become part of his nature. To play-act was easy enough; to abandon such an integral part of his character to a performance was quite different, and considerably harder than merely behaving towards Captain Pellew as though he was an inferior.
"I am not England's friend, Lord Cassillis, any more than you purport to be. In what way would selling these documents to you be beneficial to France? Or even, how could it harm England?"
"By serving Scotland," Kennedy said, evasively, as though he hoped he could delay any more profound explanation. He knew there would come a point when he had to reveal his story. Pellew had been impressed with it, and together they ironed out the inconsistencies, filled in the gaps and found answers for the inevitable questions. Still, he was playing an amateur ­ a clever amateur ­ but an amateur nonetheless, who was reluctant to give out any information he didn't have to, and would delay that part until the very last. Certainly his planned tale wouldn't be half so believable without such a build-up, and it would, if it were true, be information anyone in his position was reluctant to give.
Kennedy didn't even contemplate the possibility of any similar situation existing in truth. His family had supported the Jacobite cause; it was the most likely reason that there was very little aid to be spared in their efforts to rebuild Culzean.
Personally speaking, he was indifferent: he was in the Navy and would never really be Lord Cassillis. His life would probably have progressed in much the same way, whichever side the Kennedy's had supported and whichever side won. He was just about estranged enough that he could have escaped in the Navy, anyway (provided his cousin had still put up the monies, of course).
"I understood that Scottish hopes were quite crushed," Trevellian commented, with a tone of careful neutrality, with just a hint of sympathy.
"Perhaps Scottish interests are not quite so crushed as His most Britannic Majesty-" he said the last two words with forced bitterness: having been a King's man for the entire duration of his manhood, it was difficult to speak of him with such disrespect. "-might hope."
"But the Bonnie Prince is dead," Trevellian objected. "Long dead."
Kennedy smiled. "Very true. But he cared deeply for the cause, and for the peoplefar too much to leave such matters entirely unresolved, and enough to leave" Kennedy leaned forwards, as though frightened that the fire in the grate may whisper the secret to another. "an heir"
Trevellian shifted forwards with barely concealed eagerness. The story was out. This was the point at which his success either became likely or his attempt was as crushed as 'Scottish interests'.
"You can prove parentage?" Tevellian demanded. "You can prove a claim?"
It was a question expected; and the obvious question to ask. Some anonymous bastard, whether from the loins of Bonnie Prince Charlie or not, would have no hope of a claim, and nobody would rally to such a cry. "Of course," he answered, negligently, waving the query away. "Indeed ­ the paperwork, a marriage certificate and the birth certificate, are both held at Castle Culzean."
Tevellian nodded. "I should have liked to see them."
And sell them, Kennedy thought to himself.
"Too many people should like to see them for me to risk travelling with them," he laughed (then coughed). "Excuse me. And destroy them, for that matter."
Trevellian refilled the half-inch of his glass that was bereft of wine. Kennedy might have appreciated it more if he thought he could risk being anything less than at peak ability, but it was wiser to be a man who didn't have much taste for alcohol than to refuse its every offer on excuse of some self-inflicted stricture. A full glass was rarely refilled.
"With such plans ­ such as the proposed defences of Cramond ­ we would be more than capable of getting him into Scotland, and supplying our supporters, from the very harbour designed to put us ­ and any other enemy ­ off attempting such a quiet approach."
"And perhaps take the harbour for your own causes?" suggested Trevellian.
"It can be done quietly," Kennedy reminded him. "How easy to replace marines and dock workers, who are little but a head-count to their masters? And if we should know what was needed in such a place, the correct candidate might be made available from those loyal, and be in place from the outset. So little deception and effort might be spent, if we had the right information, and yet do so much damage when the time came to act. Especially to Leith."
Trevellian pursed his lips. "Very daring. But an option, certainly," he conceded. He knew as well as any man that Leith was an important harbour.
Kennedy affected a smirk. "I think you like the sound of our plans," he said.
A slow nod was his reward. "I think I do. Open unrest in Ireland, and covert unrest in Scotland. France and Spain still lurking like the wolf at the doorah yes ­ I think I like the sound of your plans, Lord Cassillis."
"Well-" Kennedy had a brief coughing fit. "Excuse me. It is not my plan alone, of course. Credit must go to others as well. However; they did not have the advantage of knowing where such plans were to be found. My friend, an impulsive McDonald, as one may presume, was all for sending a thief into the Admiralty for them. Can you imagine the fiasco?"
Trevellian laughed with him, although Kennedy's chuckle was more from nervousness than amusement. He felt as though he had been wound as tightly as a top and was going to snap at any moment. Laughter brought only physical relief.
"But why would any covert Scottish operation be more beneficial than open hostility? Especially with such fore-knowledge; it would make the new Cramond port most vulnerable to open assault."
"And then you run the risk," Kennedy countered. "Of your spies being arrested. If these plans were known to be in enemy hands, then the Admiralty would be determined to find all those involved, and a most thorough investigation would begin to dispose of such agents; some of whom must be known, already, as that is how such games are played. However, if the plans fell into Jacobite hands ­ what England believes to be a few petty rebels, now that the Prince is dead ­ they would begin to search their own ranks for a double agent; or even just investigate those Scottish Admirals under His Britannic Majesty. It will spread mistrustdissolutionand chaos. How effective would commands from paranoid Commodore's be? How self-serving, considering the ways in which the Royal Navy operates? They would begin to destroy themselves, and England's enemies would find themselves in far better a position for open warfare when it comes."
"True enough," Trevellian conceded. Kennedy was happy to find that the events he was predicting were at least conceivable.
"I'm sure you have had the inconvenience of withdrawing or losing agents yourself; and that you would be eager to avoid such again," he pressed, and was rewarded with a thoughtful nod. "After all, I doubt the British care to distinguish between an agent of France, and an agent in private employ." Trevellian seemed to be more wary, now, having learned that Lord Cassillis's physical weakness did not demonstrate mental weakness. If Trevellian had believed him to be an aristocratic fop, then he was revising his opinions. There was even a strange kind of pleasure in the act, and this was only the first serious test of his 'Lord Cassillis' persona. Kennedy was actually enjoying playing him!

 

CHAPTER FOUR: A WALK IN THE WOODS

At first, Kennedy felt the third test of his Lord Cassillis persona was going to prove a great deal more stressful than the first two. Trevellian invited him ­ a very courteous invitation at that ­ to attend him at the same time and place as their last meeting. It had been four days since their introduction and Kennedy felt a bizarre combination of dread and apprehension on one hand and relief and encouragement on the other.
Beyond that, though, it would be a change of scene. He had only dared venture into the village once, letting the local populace see him, and making himself somewhat conspicuous by being barely able to return to the inn without a number of stops on the journey, and availing himself of the kindness of the local miller and his cart. He also spent a lot of money: he was kindly and paternal to the little children, fraternal and friendly to the older children. He doffed his hat and smiled at the ladies ­ married or otherwise ­ and let his obviously poor state of health convince husbands and sweethearts that he was not a serious threat.
Kennedy thought he still looked gratifyingly terrible. He was pale and thin, with dark circles beneath his eyes, and he had deliberately chosen clothing to fit a slightly larger man; but not so much larger that he looked scruffy. However, everyone in the village (and at the inn where he stayed) seemed to feel he was very charming, if eccentric, and he doubted he would be forgotten too quickly. Certainly Trevellian would be making enquiries, and to be answered with consistent anecdotes rather than blank stares would lessen any suspicion Trevellian had.
He also became an avid member of the library and so far as anyone was aware, he spent his days reading, and doing little else. He selected books he already knew well, merely skimming them, then returning them quickly. If anybody enquired about the stories, he could report his views, and if he were asked how he found the language, he would say that it was a challenge, but he believed his command of French was improving, and with his current abilities, he could 'improve' slowly and convincingly.
In reality, he spent his time exercising. The journey by sea and over-land to this location had improved him more than he had originally thought. Yesterday evening, he had even managed a handstand against the wall ­ a small celebration at the invitation from Trevellian. However, an unco-operative nightshirt and the possibility of someone entering the room made that an experiment he would not be repeating.
He also practised lock picking on the furniture and door, and suppressed a smile at the thought of the proprietor wondering why all his locks in this room were worn. He also practised his slight of hand and wished for a target and pistol so he might keep up his skill for shooting. That was one of the skills he had not needed to learn especially for his mission aboard Renown, but he quickly suppressed that memory. Neither could he practise what he had learned of 'escapeology' as the art was called.
Walking through the village had been pleasant. He felt Lord Cassillis had enjoyed the excursion as much as Kennedy himself had, and so the second true test of the persona had gone well.
However, as he was conducted to the drawing room in the Chateau, he could hear voices.
"Monsieur Trevellian has other guests?" he asked in soft French, since he was liable to assume the servants did not speak English.
"Oui, Monsieur."
"Then perhaps I misread the time; I would not wish to intrude," he said. Yet another evening of picking the wardrobe locks and ill-advised handstands would be better than playing Lord Cassillis in front of a large audience! He couldn't do it!
"Non, Monsieur ­ you are expected," Kennedy was told. It unnerved him even more. What would he not give for a canon ­ or an escape route ­ right now?
On entering the room, Kennedy was surprised to see the variety of people gathered. The furniture of the drawing room had been moved to a more convenient arrangement and thankfully the fire was not lit. Kennedy thought he might just choke with fright at the prospect of being surrounded by enemies and required to continue his act. That Lord Cassillis was now the means of his self-preservation only made it more daunting.
For a moment, he couldn't recall whether Lord Cassillis spoke Spanish or not, and other ridiculous details of the carefully constructed act. How frequently did he cough? Would he need to sit down, soon? Had the coach journey been warm enough?
"Ah ­ Lord Cassillis ­ welcome!" Trevellian was coming towards him, purposefully.
"Monsieur Trevellian, it is a pleasure to see you again," he responded, with a practised smile.
And just as easily as that, the panic and fear abated. He was Lord Cassillis again and as absolutely in the part as though he really was Lord Cassillis, and it was Lt. Kennedy ­ or now just Kennedy ­ who was the act he put on. And Cassillis was practised in society and would not be in the least trepedatious about entering a room full of strangers.
He could-
He could even be the star of this gathering!
The less like himself Lord Cassillis was, the easier it was to play him. Kennedy was popular in most of the societies he found himself in ­ a natural sympathy and fondness for company saw to that, but he did not tend to put himself forward. Cassillis, however, had status, if not money, and was far more likely to do so. The departing nervousness had left him somewhat light-headed and giddy. He might as well be in his cups!
So he offered a dazzling smile to every person he met; issued complements to the ladies (and basked in the attention they paid him in return); he expressed envy and admiration for the accomplishments of the gentlemen, and commiserations when ill fortune appeared to have crossed their paths; he was good-humoured, but frail, and it turned out that Lord Cassillis did need to sit himself down near an open window after half an hour. He was so charming in his self-deprecation that nobody despised him for such weakness.
In fact, Kennedy had to be careful not to enjoy the attention or the act too much. During the evening, he spoke to French officials, Spanish ambassadors, business men and gentlemen, nobility and aristocracy, and wives and a sister. He also shared a very entertaining flirtation with that sister. She spoke in Spanish and he ­ pretending to have no knowledge of the language ­ responded in English. He made it entertaining for their audience as he could speak Spanish, and obviously speak Spanish, since he formed clever replies as though misunderstanding her.
Kennedy had also expected an evening of business, but he did not get one. This simply appeared to be a chance for everyone to meet their competition. He even met one of the English agents that Pellew had mentioned, but many of the guests clearly had no idea of the business Trevellian conducted, as Trevellian took great delight in explaining to him. There was a vast mix of previous clients, those with other interests he was engaged in, and some who were nothing more than they appeared ­ guests invited for a sociable evening ­ as well as others interested in the plans for Cramond Harbour. It was for each person to decide who was who.
However, Kennedy theorised that there was another purpose behind this eccentricity: Trevellian watched them all carefully, especially as they were introduced. Kennedy believed he was assessing who had met before; whether there was any flicker of recognition in any person's eyes as they met another, or even if any prior acquaintance was openly acknowledged. Even he noticed that one or two people were uneasy at this gathering, including one Senor Antonio, who looked at him with open mistrust and barely spoke to him at all after they were presented to each other. Kennedy hoped his own pretence at having failed to see it, because he was otherwise enjoying himself, was convincing. He was grateful for the comfort of his cane whenever he happened to notice Antonio.
Lord Cassillis had over-exerted himself by the evening's end, feigning faintness, and laughing that he had drunk far too much (if one glass of something rather sweet and sickly which was not to Kennedy's or Cassillis' taste could be called 'too much'). He had his carriage called at a time when he was not the first to leave, but conversation had subsided into quiet discussions between smaller groups. And he had no intention of letting the ambassador's sister think he might be more serious than their comedic flirtation had suggested.
The carriage, when it came, had apparently met with an accident; the back wheel was dented ­ one of the spokes had snapped, and pressure had buckled the rim.
"Oh, how very vexing!" he exclaimed, as the coachman declared the damage to severe for use.
"And all my own carriages are engaged," Trevellian apologised. Kennedy's heart sank when he thought this might be sabotage and he would be invited to stay at the Chateau. A sleepless night, on an eight-hour watch, was the last thing he wanted when indoors in that overheated castle. However, Trevellian did not make the expected invitation in the pause that followed.
"Then I suppose I shall have to ride," he said. "It is not so great a distance, and if I take care, I should come to no harm."
He thought Lord Cassillis might actually view this misfortune as the opportunity for some gentle adventure, but having already established the fact that he was weary, it would be out of place to meet the challenge with enthusiasm. Cassillis did not suffer discomfort very gladly, Kennedy supposed. So he made the proposition as if it were simply an evil that had to be endured, and Cassillis was the type to resign himself to such with the best grace he could muster.
"Oh ­ here is Senor Antonio," Tevellian stated. "I believe his route takes him past your lodging."
"Please do not trouble him-" Kennedy started, but Trevellian was already approaching Antonio.
"You have no other means?" the Spaniard asked, coldly, but in English and addressed directly to him.
"Lord Cassillis did offer to ride," Trevellian said, too professional to return the chill tone, but neutrally enough for the discerning to think he disapproved of Antonio response. "But I would not be happy to insist on it, as he is rather done in. You pass his lodging, and so need not divert."
"Very well, then," Antonio agreed, abruptly. "Goodnight, Monsieur Trevellian." He got into the carriage and waited for Cassillis to join him. It was actually Trevellian who took Kennedy's arm to help him into the vehicle, and Kennedy felt a momentary stab of pride as he remembered to lean on Trevellian as though he really required the assistance.
"This is awfully kind of you, Senor," Kennedy said as he pretended to be a little breathless from his excursions. "I am sorry to be such an inconvenience to you."
"Do not think of it," Antonio replied, in clumsy English.
The journey began very awkwardly. Kennedy felt tense as he had in no way anticipated continuing the act beyond getting into his carriage, and thought it was strange that he should feel easy as Lord Cassillis, but struggle to maintain it longer than he anticipated. But he also found himself thinking that the evening hadn't been entirely devoid of pleasure for him, either as Kennedy, or as Cassillis.
Fortunately, he was not so lost in his thoughts that he didn't act as soon as he had warning that something was wrong.
Antonio thumped twice, loudly, on the carriage roof, suddenly.
Kennedy knew a pre-arranged signal when he heard one, however, and didn't need to feign surprise or sudden fear, but before the carriage had quite come to a halt, he flung himself at the door, and hurled himself out.
Antonio was not quick enough to catch him, mostly because it was a remarkably stupid thing to do and so Antonio had not expected it. The door could have hit a tree and slammed back into him; he could have hit a tree himself, or any portion of road, grass, rocks, a fence or even a sign-post when he threw himself out. As it was, he hit only the ground, but that was solid enough to knock the breath from him. Pain lanced through his chest; feeling alarmingly similar to being shot, but he got up and ran regardless. The woodlands through which they had been travelling were his best chance for hiding, and he found himself planning his next move, even as he made his escape.
He would conceal himself until just before dawn, and then he would stumble back to the Chateau ­ fainting, frightened and ill ­ and report to Trevellian that Antonio had attacked him. He should have time as he hid to work out how the frail Lord Cassillis had escaped the stronger Spaniard; some matter of luck, he supposed; Antonio underestimating him. Of course, if Antonio got to the Chateau before himno ­ it would still be better to stick to the original story; simply that, with no theories as to the whys, and so no hint of contrivance.
Kennedy did not get the chance to hide, however. Something hard struck him in the back and forced him to the forest floor, bearing down on top of him, leaving him unable to breath for several moments. He could not see what it was in the dark, but hands that tried to grab him made it reasonable to assume that it was Antonio or his coach-driver. Not that his identity signified ­ Kennedy fought back, wildly.
Briefly, a kick to some unidentified body part bought him a little space. It was Antonio; the coach-driver was there, too, but seemed content to stay out of the fight, holding a lantern for the two combatants, and blocking his escape down one side of the woodlands ­ somewhere to the other side was a river, narrowing his options somewhat, but Kennedy's immediate concern was to flee his would-be captors. Antonio didn't appear to be armed, but also seemed willing to engage in unarmed combat; not something Kennedy had a great deal of experience in. He brought the cane down awkwardly, and as was intended, the Spaniard grabbed it, and tried to pull it out of his grasp.
The sword came smoothly out of it's sheath as Antonio pulled; giving Kennedy a weapon and Antonio none. Antonio gave him the oddest smile, just then; as though he were impressed ­ even pleased ­ at this tactic, and just as Kennedy began to wonder what kind of trouble he was in, lunged at him.
Kennedy was a skilled swordsman ­ it was too familiar a practice for him to be especially worried by his current aches and pains, or his recent injury, having a great impact on his ability, although this sword was longer and finer than he was used to. He had been cut up in battle, before; he had fought through tiredness; excessive heat and cold ­ it was a situation he was too used to, but fighting an unarmed man was something new. Could he fend him off until Antonio gave up? Would Antonio see him as too dangerous? But the Spaniard had attacked him without fear of life or limb, and dancing more than fighting, closed with him, past his defence, and pulled them both to the ground again. He had not even had chance to prove his swordsmanship.
He tried to strike his foe with the hilt of the sword as Antonio trapped his other arm, but the Spaniard's longer reach and larger hand meant he blocked it and kept hold; Kennedy was almost immobile, and he tried to cling to the sword as it was the only advantage he had! It was wrenched from his grasp, and rather than attempt to use it, Antonio flung it away from them both. The light swung and bobbed around as the coach-driver retrieved the weapon.
Kennedy struggled on, despite being out-manoeuvred, out-classed and out-numbered. Eventually, Antonio had him flat on his back, his larger hands pinning his wrists to the woodland floor, and his legs trapping Kennedy's so there was no useful leverage at any part of his body. Panic set in, briefly, as Kennedy recalled Jack Simpson holding him down like this, when he had been a less capable youth of sixteen. Now he was eleven years older, but the old fear was still there, and he responded with panic.
Antonio was shouting at him, and he felt it must have been an eternity before his aching limbs and desperate breathlessness forced him to lessen his struggles. His injury was burning as a reminder that it was not absolutely healed, yet, and he had a strange flash of mixed memory and speculation: of Dr. Sebastian, reprimanding him for this foolishness in that gentle way of his.
"Lieutenant! For god's sake man, I'm not trying to hurt you, but you're making it damn difficult."
English.
Antonio was speaking English. English accent; English words; even an English intonation.
The Spaniard ­ if indeed he was a Spaniard ­ was also breathing heavily; at least Kennedy could take some satisfaction from that. "I'm not going to harm you, Kennedy ­ stop fighting me!...Thank you!"
"Who are you?" Kennedy demanded. What he should have asked was how he knew Lord Cassillis was not the man beneath him, but it was too late to ask the second question, now.
"You don't need to know," Antonio gasped. "Good god, man ­ you make your life difficult, do you know that?"
"What do you want?" Kennedy persisted. Short, sharp questions seemed more fitting than any requiring some articulation.
"For the moment, a little sanity would be nice," Antonio replied, impertinently. "And beyond that ­ a little co-operation from a countryman! Or at least, a fellow King's man. You aren't really a Jacobite, are you? No? Excellent!"
Kennedy hadn't been given a chance to answer. He stared up at his captor and tried to force himself to appear neutral; he probably looked like a bewildered fool. He felt like a bewildered fool! Horatio would never have allowed himself to be in such an undignified disgrace, like this. He would probably have contrived a way to get himself to his lodging without the necessity of imposing on Antonio.
"Now ­ if I let you up, you won't try to run again, will you? This uniform wasn't designed for pursuit, and I'd hate to have to actually beat you up; you seem like a nice enough fellow." Again, without waiting for an answer, Antonio released his legs, and as he pulled himself to his feet, he pulled Kennedy with him. He kept a hold on his wrists and the coach-man steadied Kennedy as he stumbled at the unexpected necessity of supporting himself. Slowly, Antonio released him completely. Kennedy didn't run.
"I'm an English agent," Antonio told him, finally getting around to answering the first question. "And I have to say that I'm just a little annoyed to find I have someone from within the service to compete with. Who gave you your orders?"
"You don't need to know," Kennedy replied, using Antonio own words as he gasped for breath. To his surprise, Antonio laughed.
"I expect it isn't the same source as mine," he said, cheerfully. "Well, you can't withdraw your bid, now, it would look too suspicious. So ­ we work together and one way or another England gets the plans. How do you feel, Lieutenant? I hope I didn't hurt you too badly as I understand that bullet wound isn't quite healed, yet."
"My name-" He felt it best to maintain his act, but his attempt was broadsided before he got the chance.
"Is Archer Kennedy; too bad it's so distinct; you would have vanished amongst all the 'Archibalds'. You do have a cousin called Richard Kennedy; the real Lord Cassillis, and he is still in residence at Castle Culzean, musing over why an honourable man such as his cousin would confess to doing something like pushing his Captain into the hold of the ship. I know your story, Lieutenant. And I recognised you."
"You are mistaken, sir."
"Oh, don't give me all that," Antonio brushed off his pretence like an irritating fly. Kennedy began to feel as he often did around Horatio ­ somewhat inadequate and very much out of his depth. The only difference was that he didn't much like this Mister Antonio, or Senor Antonio or whoever he was; at least he was friends with Horatio ­ it made all the discomfort worthwhile.
"Justinian delivered me to an assignment about a decade ago. You were only Midshipman, then, and transferred off before we sailed. I particularly recall that tall fellow who was frightened of heights; I think you helped him out a couple of times, and was kind enough not to tell anyone else; or mock him yourself."
Kennedy opened his mouth. Nothing came out, for which he supposed he might be grateful, since he doubted anything he could say, or any sound he could make, would be either appropriate or coherent.
"I have a perfect memory, you see, which means I'm good at my job. I remember doing you the injustice of thinking you wouldn't go very far if you were so soft on people the way you were with that tall fellow."
Kennedy suddenly wanted to tell him that it was Commander Hornblower he was talking about, and deserved the credit of rank and respect beyond being merely 'that tall fellow'. He didn't recall this man at all, but as he had served aboard four ships from Justinian to Renown (not including prize vessels) and seen thousands of men come and go at many points during his time aboard all of them, it was no surprise that he couldn't recall one.
"I was wrong. I admit that; you might go further than I gave you credit for. But I am a better judge, now," Antonio said. "Now ­ what am I to do with you. Certainly we can't pretend to like each other after the way I treated you this evening ­ I do beg your forgiveness for that, incidentally: I don't like to be rude ­ but this is too good an opportunity for us to serve his most Britannic Majesty. What d'you say?"
Oh ­ now he actually wanted an answer, did he?
"Your apology is accepted, sir," he said.
Antonio laughed again, and extended his hand. "Anthony is how I'm known in England," he introduced himself. "And this is my faithful man, Walker ­ fellow agent; excellent coachman; terrible servant and don't get me started on his skills as a valet, but he can eavesdrop better than I could hope to manage myself; I'm looking forward to hearing his opinion of tonight's conversations. I introduce him so you might know how I acquired so much information about you, when all I had to go on was a name and a memory."
'Walker' bowed to him. He was a plain and inconspicuous man, but dignified, in precisely the way a good servant should be. Not to mention a good spy.
"Kennedy," Kennedy said. He offered nothing more, and he shared the name with Lord Cassillis, anyway.
Antonio seemed to think that was amusing, too.
"Very well, Kennedy," he said. "Lets at least conduct our business in the coach. Come on." He started back, expecting the Lieutenant to follow him, and not knowing what else he could possibly do, Kennedy followed.
"You and I are both going to lose this bid," Antonio said. "Neither of us are offering enough money to persuade Trevellian to give us the plans; he's just keeping us in the game to up the price. Not an unexpected tactic. The Irish are going to win it, actually; they're supported by French finances and have offered a price too good to refuse and the damage they could do from within is enormous. Trevellian is still an enemy of England, however, and he takes into account what else might happen, as well as price. It's the only reason he's allowed to carry on this kind of trade without being hung by his own people. The other Spaniard; Carlos, is from the militia, and the only other true contender. But eventually the Irish will win it, I think. If handing these plans to the Irish puts them more firmly in Bony's bed; enough that the French can land a fleet in Ireland" Antonio did not need to spell the situation out for him. If they could land in Scotland, too, then England's advantages of being an island rapidly vanished. His own bid relied on Trevellian already knowing that simple tactic.
Kennedy had been told about his patriotism by Trevellian himself, but the news that he would not be given the plans was indeed a serious blow. What would he do then? He hadn't dared consider the possibility before, but Antonio had put it too bluntly before his notice for him to ignore it. What would he do?
"For god's sake, man, don't despair," Antonio continued, looking around at him, since Kennedy was trailing behind the two agents. "Our odds are up if we work together. We'll just have to get them another way. Steal them."
"I'm no thief!" Kennedy protested.
"It's a little late to quibble over your honour, considering what happened to Captain Sawyer," Antonio retorted.
Kennedy felt the insult like a physical blow, and even stopped dead for a few seconds. When he had declared himself not to be a thief, he had actually been referring to his skills as a thief; he might be able to pick locks and perform sleight-of-hand, or escape from being bound, but he doubted he could manage such an enormous task as Antonio was proposing. He had not been thinking about his honour, only his ability.
"I meant my skills aren't up to theft; not on this scale," he said, quietly and neutrally, not wanting to lay himself open to this man.
Antonio looked back at him, and seemed to regret what he had said on the instant of seeing him. If Kennedy was fast at reading people, then Antonio was lightning. "I'm sorry ­ that was uncalled for," he said. "And it isn't widely believed you did push him, if the truth is told, and if it's any comfort. The people who know you confessed at all, that is, since the whole issue was brushed under the carpets of Admiralty House. But there are a few of us who think it was remarkably decent of you to confess; saving your ship-mates from the noose; saving the honour of the Navy by taking all dishonour on yourself. Especially those of us who know that Sawyer wasn't playing with a full deck of cards ­ or is that a full complement of canons?"
Kennedy couldn't find an answer to that speech. Antonio offered a lop-sided grin and shook his head ruefully. "Good god, man ­ you make your life difficult, do you know that?" he said again, slinging his arm around the Lieutenant as though they were brothers. Kennedy had a sudden desire for the aid of the other Spaniard's sister.

 

INTERLUDE: ADMIRAL HALLIWELL

Commodore Sir Edward Pellew was deep in contemplation in the lounge area of admiralty house. His reflections, although unhappy, were as ordered as his command style, and he was currently thinking on the past - a dozen years ago when his protégé, Hornblower, and the hapless Kennedy had first been assigned to Indefatigable, and not a week later, when he had committed his first offence against Kennedy. At least it had been the kind of offence a Captain was entitled to give, and not only went unquestioned, but entirely unnoticed in the general way of things.
Some spark of defiance, quickly resisted by Hornblower, caught his attention when he had first interviewed the new Midshipmen assigned from Justinian. At that early point, Kennedy had seemed just as dull as the others, but was only sixteen, which meant he retained a potential the older men lacked, and Pellew didn't see why he shouldn't do well in the better, less neglectful, environment of Indie. But he saw real prospect in Hornblower and not just because of his young age.
So - when they captured Marie Gallant, he was glad to allow Hornblower the opportunity to erase from his Captain's thoughts the unpleasant events surrounding the duel. Standing on the deck, smartly, in front of his division, although his expression betrayed nothing, the rest of his demeanour spoke of irrepressible excitement at the prospect of command. It had pleased Pellew to see it, and then, one of the other midshipmen, dull Mr. Kennedy, intercepted Hornblower to offer his congratulations. A vague feeling of uncertainty told Pellew that he had made some small error; Kennedy was so obviously disappointed; and not just at losing a friend aboard ship, but at something more.
He covered the nagging doubt by snapping at Hornblower for his slowness, and as Indefatigable resumed her pursuit of the convoy, retired to his cabin to look over Kennedy's letter of recommendation again.
And found his error.
Kennedy had one year seniority over Hornblower.
The convoy offered no further command to be given to Kennedy in compensation. In the strictest manner of things, Kennedy had every right to command of Marie Gallant over and above the other Midshipman, and Pellew had robbed him of it, foreshadowing his favouritism (a Captain's own right) of Hornblower.
But, he had reflected, there would be ample time to give Kennedy his chance sooner or later. He just about forgot the rest of the incident, except to note a generosity of spirit when recalling his congratulations, freely given, and warmly welcoming Hornblower back on his less than triumphant return.
He had given them joint command of their boat during the raid of Papillon, and could no more foresee those consequences than he could the deaths of Lt. Chadd and Lt. Eccleston. Lieutenants and Midshipmen were lost too frequently for him to blame himself any more or any less for Kennedy's fate than he had done for the loss of any other under his command. It even gave him a certain freedom to demonstrate his adoption of Hornblower as his protégé.
But his second offence against Kennedy, perhaps two years later, was so much worse and he could not excuse himself on that count.
How the men answered to the news that Hornblower had offered their word to return to 'Hell' Ferrol as he had heard it termed, would show whether he could inspire loyalty the way a Captain should. They were disappointed, naturally, but willing to be bound by his word. The pale, fatigued Midshipman who had spoken first had said just the right thing in reply to Pellew's question.
He had blithely offered a salute to the departing boat, and felt regret, but nothing amiss; there was too much on his mind ­ the Duchess, the dispatches, the return to prison of loyal and brave men who did not deserve to be there. And as he watched, the Midshipman in the boat visibly flinched at every canon shot.
All of a sudden Pellew realised that it wasn't the same Midshipman he had assigned to La Reve; that man had been much older, coarser, and couldn't have replied with the same eloquence as the man before him. Yet the face had been familiar enough for Pellew not to query matters. He wished he had been afforded time to read through all the reports and paperwork, but Hornblower was so damn thorough that Pellew had read only the circumstances of their capture at the beginning and their escape at the end, putting off the details to be read at some other time.
He departed for his cabin again, to answer for this inconsistency, with a strange sense of deja vue which trailed foreboding in its wake.
Upon establishing that Hunter was dead, and Kennedy had been found already in the prison, he read Kennedy's log, as well, which detailed two years in French then Spanish prisons; five spirited escape attempts that brought beatings and further punishment; a month in an oubliette. And only then he actually remembered Kennedy, and realised that between himself and Hornblower, they had damned a man - not much beyond a boy - undeservedly to return to hell.
Pellew had never forgiven himself for that. Nor had he confided his regrets in Hornblower, who had offered Pellew the complement on their eventual return. He hoped that he helped his favourite feel better about the incident, and Pellew had restricted himself to corresponding with his own former mentor on the matter. Whether he helped Hornblower or not, Admiral Halliwell had made him feel better, even providing a list of things he could say and do for Kennedy to salve any wounds a little.
To make it worse, however, not one word of bitterness, reproach or censure had been uttered by Kennedy at all, before or after that return to prison.
Thinking on his mentor drew Pellew's attention further back to his own days as Midshipman and Lieutenant ­ thinking about Halliwell always did. In fact - there was Halliwell now; a tiny man of just over five feet tall, with a stocky, thick figure that made him look on the fat side (though Pellew knew that entire body was packed with hard muscle and no room to spare something as self-indulgent as fat). His hair was thick, and snow-white, when once it had been thick and Celtic red. He was just well-looking enough to be handsome, in bizarre contrast to all else, and besides the colour of his hair, he looked the same now as he had when commanding the Seawitch.
Most of Pellew's dinner anecdotes came from his days aboard Seawitch. Admiral Halliwell - then Captain Halliwell - also had the dubious honour of being the only captain not to be court-martialled for the loss of his ship. Probably because it would embarrass the Admiralty more than punish Halliwell.
Seawitch I had been a relatively large frigate; suited to her purpose, eerily beautiful and elegant. On duty to take privateers as prizes; a task that at least her Captain had skill for, she had taken a Sloop and Frigate from the French forces. In a dazzling strategy, in which Pellew had commanded the Frigate, the three ships contrived to take a prime specimen, that would undoubtedly rate as a Ship-of-the-Line in His Majesty's Royal Navy. Pellew recalled that the action had been simply magnificent.
Except that Seawitch was fatally injured, dismasted, holed, and one entire side of her had been raked with a 32lb ball; she slowly died the honourable death of a warship; sinking beneath the waves so gradually that they even had time to strip her of cargo, stores and spare canvas (and even the Captain's library) by keeping her leaning over to one side as the operation was completed. She couldn't have been saved; although she went slowly, so much of her hull planking had split, the carpenter couldn't find enough wood (unless they broke up the Sloop), or enough time to prevent her loss.
Commanding the larger ship since he had lost his own, Captain Halliwell had then undertaken the most audacious action that His Majesty's Royal Navy had ever seen.
He had the captured Frigate painted in the Seawitch's colours; grey and green. He had the name 'Seawitch' painted across her stern and spent the next two years commanding her as though she were the Seawitch, and by not returning to Britain, but visiting the colonies and depending on supply vessels, when she needed to, instead. This deception was only discovered when an over-bureaucratic clerk had objected to her having more shot and powder than her fair share, and it was discovered that Seawitch II had more guns than Seawitch I. The admiralty had been either too impressed by his audacity or too embarrassed by their 'oversight' to Court-Martial him, by then.
That incident probably revealed why the Admirals had been reluctant to allow Halliwell to join their ranks when the time came for it. Pellew couldn't help but wonder how his own audacity would be received.
He grinned and returned the gesture of a raised glass when Halliwell spotted him, under the arms, rather than over the heads of the others in the crowd. Quickly enough, he extricated himself from his group, and moved towards Pellew, throwing himself into the next chair, with unAdmiral-like familiarity. He grinned at Pellew, who prepared himself to be amused.
"I've been hearing the most fabulous rumours, Edward," he said. They were utterly free with each other, despite their respective ranks, and had been since Pellew was his First Lieutenant aboard Seawitch. Pellew had preferred the formality of 'sir' to 'Alec', but that had faded when Pellew was made Post Captain.
Halliwell was a father to him, or sometimes an older brother, just as Hornblower was a son. He dearly wanted the opportunity to introduce them to each other; somehow he had been unlucky in that. It would be a delightfully strange experience to introduce surrogate son to surrogate father, and he wondered what they would make of each other.
"Navy rumours, or Lady Caroline rumours?" Pellew asked.
"Neither. I'm not sure. Not Lady Caroline," was the answer in his informal style. "And I've been investigating this one! You won't believe what I have turned up!"
Pellew grinned. He could sense a good anecdote from Halliwell just as he could sense a squall.
"Incidentally, you're getting a lot of letters from Bordeaux, aren't you?"
Halliwell liked to keep people off balance; introducing one subject, then switching to another. In Pellew's case, he was merely teasing him.
"My former ship's surgeon," he explained. "We became friends."
"You called him to attend that...er...lad from Renown, didn't you? All the way to Kingston from London! Friends indeed."
Pellew stiffened, and knew Halliwell would have seen it, but hoped he put it down to distress, rather than that thrill of trepidation which plagued him when a subject strayed close to Kennedy or his mission.
"Not successful," Halliwell concluded, sympathetically, and had to lean right over the arm of the chair to pat his shoulder consolingly.
"What's this rumour?" he asked instead.
"I hear the Bonnie Prince left an heir! A legitimate one, no less!"
Pellew smiled and shook his head. He always reacted in this way when somebody repeated the story to him. At first, he had feigned surprise, but now, just treated it as something amusing to speculate on.
"Your Renown fellow was Scottish, wasn't he?"
"He was," Pellew replied. "As you well remember!"
Halliwell smiled. "So I do," he admitted. " 'Poor, hapless Kennedy,' eh?"
The Commodore looked at him sharply. It was a stinging reminder of the habit he had developed when he thought about Kennedy ­ the name was always preceded by 'poor, hapless', just as Matthews' was preceded by 'reliable, old'.
"That was what you used to call him in your letters," Halliwell justified, letting Pellew know that he recalled every detail of the situation. He hoped that linking this conversation to those rumours about the Bonnie Prince was just coincidence. But even as that hope crossed his path, the thought that he had been discovered followed hard on its heels. His mentor was too clever.
"Imagine my surprise when I traced the rumours back to you! And that was damn hard work, I can tell you."
Despite his age and rank, Pellew felt like a young Midshipman in for a dressing-down. He was damned if he let Halliwell see it, but somehow the Admiral could still make him feel like a boy with too much left to learn, although it was something he felt less often as the years went by.
"What are you up to, Edward?" he asked, low and serious.
If it had been anybody else in the world, Pellew could have bluffed, been offended, and his usual upstanding self. With Halliwell, there was no alternative but truth; at least if he wanted to retain Halliwell's respect. "Making reparation for an error," he answered. "A grave error."
"I see," Halliwell accepted, sitting back, and observing the crowd of uniformed men that he had left. It was a tense minute before he spoke again. "And how far into it are you? Because - I don't know if you're aware of this - your entire attitude of late has been that of a man who is waiting."
Pellew looked up sharply.
"I can't recall any particular 'grave error' you've made." Halliwell continued. "You don't make a habit of mistakes; and you make less of a habit of admitting them. Commodore Pellew makes a mistake - it's worthy of a whole page in the Chronicle, and they'd print the headline before they knew the story!"
Pellew let himself smile. No - he was known for not making mistakes, and it was a reputation that pleased him. Still, he was safer with Halliwell than anyone else.
"Come, now, old friend," the Admiral said. "Confess to me. What have you done, and what is this reparation?" He paused. "And what the hell could a rumour about Bonnie Charlie have to do with it?"
Pellew took a deep breath, stalling to give himself time to look around for possible eavesdroppers. There was nobody to disturb them in their corner; everyone was too wrapped up in their own business.
"You recall the missing plans of the Cramond defences?"
"Yes, but I also recall that was Sawyer's mistake. You did argue against his being the courier; what more could you do?"
"I had someone try to retrieve them, aboard Renown," Pellew admitted.
"And he failed," the Admiral concluded for him. "Young Hornblower, was it?"
Pellew shook his head after a moment's hesitation. It was tempting to agree and apprise his protégé of the story, but when Kennedy returned, he would be discovered to have lied to Halliwell, and good reason or no, he had always been honest with his old mentor. He couldn't lie to him. But still, the hesitation alone was enough for Halliwell.
"Ah! 'Poor, hapless' Kennedy makes his entre," Halliwell concluded, new understanding seeming to dawn on him. "Who manages to get shot; found guilty of...well - assaulting a senior officer, I suppose it must be. Despite your friend, the doctor, who is now in Bordeaux, he dies, and you have a man masquerading as the Earl of Cassillis in France, still trying to retrieve those plans."
Pellew groaned inwardly. Halliwell could guess the rest, from there ­ no; that was wrong: Halliwell already knew all and had known since he traced the rumours Pellew had been spreading. There was some slight chance that he had seriously considered Hornblower to be the agent aboard Renown, and perhaps that was the last shred of information, but that barely signified, now. Neither did he seem particularly impressed with this discovery. The whole story needed to be told. "I gave Kennedy his orders. I might not have said 'push Sawyer into the hold', but I did get him trained in some of the ­ ahem ­ less conventional Navy tactics and impressed on him the importance of retrieving the plans. I also gave him broad discretionary powers to do 'all within his power' to accomplish their return."
Halliwell was frowning. "But the Court Martial? For god's sake, Edward - you chaired the proceeding! Don't you think it's going to look like a set-up?"
"I was stalling," Pellew admitted, with a sigh. "I thought if I could just spin it out, while Hammond and Collins fought over a scapegoat, I could have Kennedy testify to the more pressing matter and have the whole mutiny business pushed to one side. I assumed that he must have come to the same conclusion, and nobody was more surprised than I was when he confessed to pushing Cpt. Sawyer. He nearly wrecked everything! After that - well, Dr. Sebastian was already arrived, and the new idea struck me. If Kennedy were dead-"
" 'Poor hapless Kennedy', indeed," Halliwell groaned. "Edward - did it never occur to you that the Secret Service would already be involved? That they might already have an agent out there trying to retrieve the plans themselves? It was bad enough you sending the Navy's own agents after the thief; the Service man spent weeks getting rid of them all!"
Pellew gazed at his old mentor in disbelief. Surely he hadn't interfered with the Service? That would be enough to end his career once and for all ­ and if any damage were severe enough, Kennedy would sink with him. He didn't want to add a fourth offence to the list.
"All the dispatches and orders that go astray, and Admirals and Generals panic about their precious plans and somehow the enemy doesn't seem to take advantage of them! Doesn't anything think why? It's the reason the Service exists - or at least the reason it was founded," Halliwell grumbled.
In truth, Pellew had avoided contact with the Service; it was hardly an honourable trade (although even he could not deny to himself that it was necessary). And I sent Kennedy into it, he reflected.
"A good job the other agent is a good man ­ He'll look after your Mr. Kennedy." And looking for all the world like a man who had put the world to rights, Admiral Halliwell sat back to enjoy his Scotch. "In that case, you should stay here to keep up with your manwhich is a pity, actually, ­ I was going to ask if you wanted to come chase pirates with me."
"Pirates?" Pellew asked. This felt like a safer topic of conversation, and Halliwell was known for taking over his old ship, the Seawitch, and running off on some mission or other. Halliwell should never have been made an Admiral ­ he was too fond and too good at ship's command. Somehow, he always got Admiralty approval for this behaviour, though; probably because the Admiralty knew that he always succeeded. Pellew couldn't imagine what Seawitch's legitimate captain must think about the diminutive Admiral always usurping him, and taking the ship over himself. Even if Seawitch was officially his flagship, Pellew knew that Halliwell wouldn't stand back and let her Captain give the orders.
"Ennui ­ a pirate, not a privateer. She's living up to her name, Edward ­ damn nuisance. So I'm going after her. A little excitement, I think; I'm afraid I wasn't built for waiting ­ haven't the patience for it."
There it was: Admiral Halliwell's latest whim. Pellew smiled, sat back, and drank his brandy, feeling more like the world was the place he knew, rather than the strange waiting-lounge he had felt it to be since Kennedy departed for France. This sudden camaraderie; the change in conversion all told him that his secrets were safe with Halliwell, and if the Admiral had taken an interest in Kennedy, then he should be safer for it, too. Perhaps even put at an advantage.

 

CHAPTER FIVE: THINKING LIKE A SPY

"Now, first we decide whether to try and steal the plans from Trevellian's friend, or from Nolan when he sells them to him." Antonio spoke firmly and decisively, and Kennedy supposed he didn't want an answer any more now than he had upon their rather unusual introduction.
"Doesn't Trevellian have them?" he asked, dully.
"No - Trevellian is a professional middle-man; he has French interests and is willing to deal with anyone for the right price, but even I don't know who he works for. Don't know what nationality he is - could be anything from French to American to Russian to Japanese for all anyone knows, and I have the latest information. You really are new to all this, aren't you? No matter - I'll soon have you thinking like a spy, for want of a better term."
Never mind, thought Kennedy, that I don't want to think like a spy. He was beginning to feel trapped and would have traded every aspect of this chance to redeem his name for just five minutes on the deck of an honest ship, with a favourable wind. He hadn't even known that Trevellian wasn't the man in charge; so far as he and Pellew had been aware, the thief worked for Trevellian, who worked for himself. Unless Antonio had information to which Pellew had not been given access ­ all the easier for the real agents to take on the man behind everything and succeed if the amateurs were concentrating only on Trevellian.
Then he shook himself out of the spiralling melancholia; so he was stuck in a forest in France with an over-cheerful spy and his silent cove, bruised and tired and worried about the future. He recalled not complaining when he was stuck in a Spanish fort with a man who couldn't swim and another who was afraid of heights, bruised and tired and worried about the future. Although he hadn't been worried about the future, then, had he? Despite the mutiny, despite everything, he hadn't worried about the future until he saw Clive's face as he examined the wound, and noted the quiet shaking of his head at Hornblower.
Kennedy started as the hand slipped from his shoulder to take his elbow. "Have I injured you?" Antonio asked him, in a tone that more expressed a desire not to be argued with or lied to than actual sympathy.
"No," Kennedy disclaimed. "At least not me; Lord Cassillis, however..."
"I have a plan for that," Antonio stated, brushing off his concern. "But never mind that - you don't look well, yourself."
"I have taken much worse in the line of duty," Kennedy responded. He didn't want to share his thoughts with this man. Not for an instant.
"And you haven't heard a word I've said," Antonio sighed. "I said that we would do better to wait until Trevellian hands over the papers. You and I might distract Nolan while Walker, here, 'obtains' our property. Trevellian's employer might be keeping them anywhere in or out of the Chateau, but there's only so many places Nolan can keep them - that means there's less to search."
"How?"
"He'll steal them, you fool, I've already told you." Antonio laughed. Walker nodded in agreement.
"I meant, how do we distract Nolan." Kennedy insisted impatiently. For a man so proud of his own cleverness and perfection of memory, Antonio seemed to misunderstand a great deal.
"Ah - that's the part that needs some work. But it don't signify, you know - we have time to work out the details. We'll try to make some deal with him; get into conflict with each other...that sort of thing; let's not try to script it, though - I don't think you'd be very good with anything so staged. I think your improvision is much better."
If there were to be no script, then it all sounded quite established already, despite Antonio' claim that his plan 'needed some work'.
"Out of your depth, yet?" he asked Kennedy, cheerfully.
"Not at all," Kennedy responded, unable to avoid feeling a little nettled. He was tired, sore, and memories and regrets were taking the opportunity to plague him, pulling his attention away from this new turn of events.
"No," Antonio mused, patting his shoulder, patronisingly, as though Kennedy were a child. "But you're done in. Let's get you to your lodging and I'll contact you later."

So Antonio had effectively taken matters out of Kennedy's hands. Even the reason for his shabby appearance as he arrived back at the inn had not been left to him.
As agreed, Walker had 'arranged' for the lantern to go out just as they approached the door - that would be the 'cause' of the accident. In truth, it was to prevent anyone from seeing the state Kennedy was in already. In the carriage, Antonio had manhandled him about and stripped the leaves, twigs and other detritus off his person and out of his hair, so it didn't look so much as though he had been fighting in the woods, and he found himself ineffectively battling off Antonio's ministrations as an adolescent boy might his nanny's ministrations.
Now, in the dark, all he had to do was be unsteady as he descended the carriage, and miss his step. It was actually quite easy, if painful, to stumble over the step, and simply allow his own weight to pull him over, so he hit the gravel path hard. As planned, Antonio closed the door and Walker drove off, leaving Lord Cassillis on the ground where he had fallen, as though they had not noticed. The landlord had been waiting up for him and witnessed the accident. He made such a fuss (and called Antonio such a variety of names), that Kennedy found himself genuinely embarrassed about the incident, and tried to ensure he seemed as though he needed the landlord's assistance as he was helped up.
The whole mortifying affair was made worse as his host called for his wife to tend Lord Cassillis injuries, and then she wanted to alert the local apothecary! Kennedy felt that would be too much (and he might not be able to fool the apothecary into believing it was a fall, and not a brawl, that caused the bruises on his wrists and legs). He eventually promised to call on him the next day if he did not feel improved, and tried to reassure the couple by laughing at his own clumsiness. As they left him in his room, he even managed a smile when he overheard the landlord telling his wife of the accident. One might have believed, from his account, that Antonio was an irredeemable villain, who had pushed him out!
He might even enjoy telling Antonio about that.

The next day had Kennedy feeling stiff, despite his commitment to exercise, and he had aches in places he hadn't thought he had strained. In a way it was a relief that he had determined to stay indoors after his 'fall'; he expected to be crawling the walls with frustration at not being able to go out, again, but found himself preferring the company of two borrowed books, meals brought to him by the ever-sympathetic landlady, and the lock on the chest of drawers, which was now slightly twisted, and therefore a greater challenge for his skills.
Kennedy also devoted some time to considering Antonio. The other agent knew who he was, knew how he had come to be here and what he was trying to do, and two options lay before him. First ­ Antonio was lying; he was not a British agent, but some other spy, and was trying to use Kennedy in order to obtain the defence plans for himself, probably leaving Kennedy to take any punishment being meted out by Trevellian and any others. He thought perhaps Antonio intended to sell him to Trevellian as part of his own bid, but soon dismissed that; there were too many ways in which he could claim Antonio was lying, and prove such a claim to a greater extent than Antonio could.
Second ­ Antonio was telling the truth, and Kennedy ought to be grateful for any help he could get. It seemed sensible to assume the first and worst of the scenarios, but the evidence for the latter was better. Obtaining such information about the Kennedy family; his own disgrace and the memory he claimed to have would be more consistent with a British agent; a foreign spy would have considerable problems discovering details of any matter about which the Navy felt ashamed, and it would be unlikely to be accomplished so soon after his appearance; discovering his family heritage might be something Trevellian could be expected to do, but another agent would find too troublesome to bother with; he was only one more competition among many, and most agents should have no interest in him beyond that.
There was also his comment about Horatio ­ it meant that, whether as a passenger or an enemy spy, he must have been on Justinian, as he claimed, since nobody else could know of the incident, and an enemy spy could have got himself onto much better ships. There were enough precedents for that, at least, and no ship had been further from such special treatment by the enemy than the old Justinian. Horatio had improved his appearance when it came to his problem with heights, if not conquered the fear altogether.
It lead him to another problem, requiring action rather than reaction; should he hand over the false plans that Pellew had given him over to Antonio for Walker to exchange? In fact; why hadn't the oh-so-clever Antonio thought about doing that for himself? Or had he, but was not giving Kennedy information he didn't need to know? It wasn't long before he found himself thinking and arguing with himself in circles. Uncomfortable circles. Was this affair not already complicated enough, without Antonio?
Shortly before supper, however, the landlord announced that he had a visitor who invited him to take a meal in the private dining room, downstairs. "It's Monsieur Trevellian," the landlord informed him, in some awe and excitement.
He had to accept the invitation. Lord Cassillis most certainly would, and he put away his speculations about Antonio in order to resume his act. Beyond a feeling of injury, Lord Cassillis would not spend a great deal of thought on Antonio, having much more important matters to consider.
Tevellian was already waiting for him when he entered the private room.
"Please excuse my appearance," he apologised, warmly. "I'm afraid I found myself rather unwell this morning. Perhaps too much of your excellent wine, last night."
"Lord Cassillis," Trevellian greeted, shaking his hand with a short bow. "I was made to understand that you were not quite yourself, but that perhaps the cause was an accident you suffered while in the care of Senor Antonio."
Bad news travels quickly, Kennedy noted, and crushed a spark of pleasure that the story had got to Trevellian so speedily. No doubt Trevellian was here to verify its accuracy, and perhaps learn a little about Antonio. He looked down, feigning shame at being caught in the lie, even a polite one, and hoped he was blushing. Never mind that he had hoped to go through this embarrassment.
"Imissed my step coming out of the carriage," he explained, more soberly, and properly contrite. Lord Cassillis didn't smile at everything, after all, however charming he may otherwise be. "The lantern had gone out, and I don't believe the Senor noticed my fall from where he was sitting."
Trevellian didn't answer immediately. No doubt he had noticed that Lord Cassillis always required assistance in ascending or descending a carriage, but could not ask whether he was helped or not. Kennedy recalled leaning on him as he entered, the previous evening, and congratulated himself again on remembering to do so. It had been quite the right thing, apparently. "I hope you were not too badly injured."
"Not at all," he assured. "Madame Bonville attended to me last night." Something else that could be easily verified with the landlady, and since she was not a remarkably clever creature, Trevellian's attention would probably lead her to exaggerate the services she had performed. "I havetaken my ease today."
"I should not like to feel I was responsible for any distress, my Lord, since it was my own suggestion that Senor Antonio return you here," Trevellian continued. "I like to ensure the safety of all those I deal with; my own touch of professional pride, as my 'guests' are the source of my income. I do not mistreat them, nor willingly see them mistreated by their competition. I would not earn a good reputation that way."
"No, indeed," Kennedy agreed, as they sat at the small table. He tried not to sit gingerly, since he had fallen forwards out of the carriage, for all appearances, and should be grateful to be off his feet. He was so preoccupied with Lord Cassillis' behaviour that it was a few moments before he registered what Trevellian had said; or rather, what he might be trying to say.
"Monsieur," he began, awkwardly, with a poor attempt at lightness such as an amateur might produce. "Do you think that our association has put me into harm's way?"
"Senor Antonio is a malicious man," Trevellian confided. "He would have done better to be part of the army, rather than in diplomatic service. However, he is not a fool ­ rude, cold, perhaps, but not so insensible as to eliminate his competition in so obvious a manner. I do not consider you to be in so much danger, my Lord. However; he is also a poor loser, and does not treat potential threats with either subtlety or mercy. He likes to intimidate, but I am quite sure that he has never committed murder ­ at least not during his dealings with me. He treats all competition this way."
Kennedy bit his lip. "I am quite sure," he said carefully, "that I missed my footing. I was not pushed or tripped, as I am sure I would have realised it." This disclaimer was more convincing than any pretence at sudden alarm. Lord Cassillis was not hysterical, nor was he so susceptible to outside suggestion. Kennedy was trying to give the impression of a man clever enough to make an attempt to enter into this underworld dealing, but not so clever that he might be considered a threat to that underworld.
"But no effort was made for your relief. And I think he did notice, my Lord." Trevellian paused. "But perhaps you are correct; that to leave you was the worst he did. As I told you; he is not subtle, but he is not a fool."
Lord Cassillis lost some of his carefully contrived charm over the light dinner, and was quieter than he had been the previous evening. Kennedy noticed the very close eye Trevellian was keeping on him, and wondered whether this was an opportunity for the middle-man to try and assess the newcomer's credentials. Being Lord Cassillis made his nervousness easier to bear; being under such close scrutiny was always off-putting, and Kennedy found himself almost amused that frail, fragile Lord Cassillis stood under this scrutiny quite confidently, when Kennedy himself had quailed under the scrutiny of Pellew, who was not an enemy.
He made polite conversation with Trevellian on several subjects that the Frenchman brought up; they even conversed a little in French, and in some Spanish, as far as Lord Cassillis was able to manage. There was a brief moment of danger for him on the subject of horseflesh, but two minor mistakes Trevellian made on the subject of ships went uncorrected, although the third did not ­ it was too big a mistake for a man who had relatives in the Navy not to know. And for the life of him, Kennedy could not tell whether Trevellian was having an easy evening, furthering an acquaintance, or checking for some indication that Lord Cassillis was not all that he seemed.
But at least one thing had become clear from their evening. Antonio was considered a malicious man by Trevellian, and a man without subtlety. Kennedy had seen the previous night that Antonio was remarkably subtle, and Trevellian's dislike for him did not seem contrived, either. His behaviour as host had been absolutely irreproachable, even towards the Spaniard, and it would not do Trevellian any good for himself and Antonio to be open enemies; after all, either of them may prefer not to deal with Trevellian again if he were to deal with the other. This was further evidence in support of Antonio' claims, and Kennedy thought again about the phoney plans in his possession.

 

CHAPTER SIX: THE STUPID PLAN

After a week, during which time Lord Cassillis had recovered from his 'accident' sufficiently to take a gentle walk out (at which point he was accosted and abducted by the British spy), Kennedy stood quite convinced that Antonio was indeed a King's Man. His loyalty seemed firm and devoted; there was certainly no question about his dedication, courage or brilliance; and he had inspired the enigmatic Walker to considerable loyalty, somehow. However, Kennedy also stood quite convinced that Antonio was indeed insane.
"It will never work!" he protested. "It's crazy!"
Of all the places to meet, they were back in the forest-land, by the river ­ more a beck, Kennedy thought ­that ran through it. There was a turbulent mass of miniature-rapids to their backs, at the point at which point the water-course had widened, and it made a pleasant din behind them. The way the river curved against the gentle downwards slope, meant that they could watch the only approach and the noise of the river was loud enough to ensure that if anyone drew up from behind, they wouldn't be overheard. It was the most idyllic spot Kennedy had ever seen on land and he wished he could be here taking a picnic and berry-picking with a pretty girl, rather than discussing Antonio's stupid plans with him and the silent Walker.
"Of course it will work!" Antonio replied, as though there were no counter-argument possible, now that he had declared such.
"Lord Cassillis couldn't take on Senor Antonio in a duel! It's ridiculous!"
"Kennedy ­ I'm most reliably informed that you're an excellent shot with a pistol. I trust you to miss me, and I can't believe you wouldn't trust me to do the same!"
"Then I have devastating news for you, Anthony ­ but I don't!" he snapped back.
Antonio found that very funny. "Swords then!" he declared, laughing.
"Lord Cassillis wouldn't nearly match Senor Antonio! Not a hope of it ­ he's far too frail."
"He would if Senor Antonio were drunk," Antonio responded, briskly.
Kennedy had to concede that point. Neither would it be too difficult to find something for them to duel over, since it was known that they did not like each other. Antonio would have to be the challenger, since Cassillis wasn't foolish enough to make a challenge he knew he couldn't win. Since he was supposed to be a man of honour, neither would he refuse to give satisfaction, however hopeless, if it were to be demanded of him. Yet if the argument were sufficiently petty, Trevellian may intercede and insist they not fight to the death, but only until blood had been drawn. The real challenge would be to ensure that somehow, those were the terms which were agreed.
But Antonio was so enamoured of his idea that he wouldn't let it go, despite Kennedy's firm opposition. "It's ridiculous," he said, again.
"It's not! It would be easy. I must have done this with Walker, here, about a hundred times!" Walker nodded gravely, to confirm this. "It's only a distraction; I act drunk and therefore an even match for you. You act to Lord Cassillis' abilityI do the rest."
Kennedy shook his head.
"I'll let you win!" Antonio assured, plaintively. It was Kennedy's turn to laugh: Antonio the hardened spy sounded like a spoiled child trying to lure an adult into some foolish game. "I'll give you a nice, realistic opening, and you just take it!"
"I don't care who wins!" Kennedy told him, exasperated, but strangely entertained at the same time. "In fact, better if I were to lose. Trevellian seems to like Lord Cassillis (in a pitying sort of way). He doesn't like you ­ he thinks you're a malicious piece of work."
"Even better!" Antonio enthused, and Kennedy heard himself groan. He shouldn't have even put forward his thoughts. If he must be a spy, then he should learn to keep his mouth shut. "No ­ really," Antonio was saying. "If he likes you, then what better way to further endear yourself than to lose to me ­ and what better way to alienate myself at the same time? I don't want Trevellian to like me; it works better for Senor Antonio to be despised personally, so long as they deal together professionally."
Kennedy regarded him, suddenly noticing that Anthony spoke about his alter ego, Senor Antonio, in just the same way that he thought about Lord Cassillis: some other person who had laid his affairs in Kennedy's hands, but was actually quite divorced from him. Dammit, I've already been thinking as a spy! he thought.
In fact, the revelation was rather disturbing, and he suddenly wished Dr. Sebastian were here; or Horatio. Even Bush might have understood his discomfort, but there was nobody he could confide in, here. He could no more tell Antonio about this than he could seek consolation in Trevellian, and he wondered that Lord Cassillis ­ charming though he was ­ did not have anybody to call 'friend'. The realisation made Kennedy feel very isolated and strangely vulnerable. He hadn't felt like this since Justinian.
"We aren't doing anything so worthy of this fuss!" Antonio said, sternly. "All we're doing is setting up something to distract everyone for Walker. This is all for your own good, you know! You'll get the chance to show me how good an actor you really are. And we get the plans for the dock, while luring whoever wins them into a trap by planting false onesyou do still have those false plans, don't you? You haven't lost them or anything so infernally foolish, have you?"
"How did you know about those?" Kennedy asked, evenly.
"Commodore Pellew told" Antonio grinned, and began again. "Well, he didn't tell me directly, obviously; Commodore Pellew told those-from-whom-I-receive-my-orders, and they told me. We're effectively working together now, my friend!"
Walker nodded solemnly.
"And from whom do you receive orders, my friend?" Kennedy enquired, shrewdly. "It seems that you're making some severe demands on my trust and giving me fewer and fewer reasons to give it. I don't recall being requested and required to work with anybody."
"But you don't have any communication channels available to you, to your Commodore, or anybody else. Sir Edward is not exactly acting in accordance with his own orders: this is all very much above and beyond his requirements." Antonio replied. "And it seems to me that you don't have any choice, either."
Kennedy said nothing. He began to feel that he was having to play-act yet another personality for Antonio; one that was far stronger willed than himself.
"You're entirely on your own, here," Antonio added. "Except for me." It was an effort not to react to having his own thoughts echoed back to him like this.
"Very well, if you want a reason to trust me, then I have one for you," Antonio told him, moving a little closer towards him, conspiratorially. Considering some of the very important, confidential, matters they had mentioned, this seemed a very odd moment to suddenly embrace the portrayal of a penny-novel spy!
"Those-to-whom-I-must-answer were very interested to hear about your own activities, here. In fact; that's partly how the information got back to me so quickly after I reported your arrival and meeting with Trevellianactually, they're quite impressed with Commodore Pellew, as well," Antonio said, thoughtfully. The way Antonio phrased the remark discretely told him that they were impressed with him, as well as being interested.
"In fact," Antonio continued. "So taken, that efforts are already being made on your behalf for when you return. One that will take all this into account, plus Pellew's original orders; events on Renown, and the Court Martial, so it can all be swept under the carpets permanently in the name of 'National Security', and you can pick up where you left off."
Kennedy felt a rush of hope and optimism. That had been similar to Pellew's hopes, although there would be no prior guarantee of the outcome. In the end, whether he risked the noose would have to be Kennedy's decision, but if he had the plans, and Pellew's letter to him, he stood a good chance of being entirely acquitted. That may not automatically lead to reinstatement in the Navy, or the retention of his rank, but an acquittal would be a promising start, and it was the most likely outcome. If he failed to get the plans, then the rest became much grimmer; he would have to stay a dead man, and make his way as best he could. No Horatio; no Bush; no Navy; no ship. Would he want to live? He hadn't dared contemplate that, and had refused to do so, even now, until it was his confirmed fate.
It was with some shame that Kennedy had to admit to himself that he was only going through all this to get his former life back; he wasn't patriotic enough to retrieve the plans for his King and country's sake, alone. War brought prize money, and gave him a useful purpose, and an Englishman should be pleased for such opportunities. So he had been pleased without truly thinking of it. Having seen war ­ having known what was happening in the village at Mullizac and seeing what the experience did to Horatiohe was less inclined towards war, now. But it started to conflict with his desire for the sea. What would he do at sea, if not fight? And he craved it, nonetheless.
"All that isn't dependent on you working with me," Antonio continued. "It isn't even dependent on you retrieving the plans, since Walker and I can certainly confirm to those-relevant-individuals that you tried, even so." Walker nodded his agreement solemnly. "But your chances of being acquitted increase if you can get those plans, and your chances of getting those plans increase if you work with us."
There was no denying that.
"Why are you so interested in the plans?" Kennedy enquired, rather than betray his sudden, childish, hope.
"Simply to return them to where they belong," Antonio brushed off. "In English hands. And so long as they get there, it's not my place to care how. They'll do you more good than they'll do me, so you may as well be their courier. Besides ­ I'm glad this turns out to be more than a simple retrieval operation, and that I can do someone a good turn: I'm beginning to like you, you know."
Kennedy failed to return the complement. In truth, he didn't yet trust Antonio or Walker, and if he ever had those papers in his possession, he would not be returning them to the other man's care voluntarily.
"You'll get used to me," Antonio told him. "You know, if we had ever had the chance to meet socially, you would think I was an amazing man."
"I already think you're an amazing man," Kennedy returned, dryly. There was truth in that; the audacity of him ­ from his insane plan to duel with him to that unguarded comment ­ really was astounding. And he did not admit that if they had made their acquaintance in some other, less fraught and secret circumstance, he probably would be pleased to have met such an extraordinary individual, even if he didn't quite consider Antonio 'amazing'.
Again, Walker nodded in utter agreement with hissuperior? Kennedy gave into the chuckle that he had been trying to repress as Antonio laughed at his sarcastic response.
"I still think there must be better ways to distract Trevellian and Nolan than with a duel."
"You could ask them to be your seconds," Antonio said, as though Kennedy hadn't raised a single objection, and they were coming to the finer details of the plan.
"I hardly know them!" Kennedy said, instead of just 'no'.
"Do you know anyone better? Madame Bonville isn't likely to act for you, is she?" Antonio pointed out. "I'll ask Don Carlos. It's as well, if he turns out to get them instead of Nolan, to have a plan that works equally well for both."
"This gets worse, Antonio," Kennedy growled, growing impatient and his earlier exuberance evaporating in the increasing likelihood that he would find himself impaled on a sword. "If he declares you too drunk to fight, what then? Perhaps I might stand some chance; at least a fair one. But Lord Cassillis wouldn't, and if I wasn't killed by him, then I would certainly have proved myself far less frail than Cassillis is. Even if they couldn't identify me for who I was, it would be enough to tell them that I wasn't genuine. And if we fight to first blood, then it's going to be over far too quickly for Walker here to steal anything."
This time, Walker agreed to what he was saying, and Kennedy began to wonder whether he didn't know any other gesture but to nod, as well as being apparently unable to speak. No ­ Antonio had mentioned looking forward to 'hearing' his report. Why did he never speak, then?
"Oh, I say ­ that is a good point," Antonio said, lightly. "Well ­ I shall just have to insist in my inebriated state; Senor Antonio can be a nuisance, you know. In fact, Carlos might just be glad to be rid of him, since I end up crossing his path as regularly as one might expect while I'm dealing with Trevellian."
"Antonio ­ I'm not fighting a duel with you!" Kennedy told him. "No ­ I do not have a ready alternative about what else might distract Nolan, but if you give me a little more time, I'm sure I could come up with something."
"We could set fire to his stables," Antonio responded, glibly.
Kennedy shot him a wilting glance, and decided that Lord Cassillis had an unusual fondness for animals.
"So, did Trevellian have anything to say about your accident?" Antonio asked, changing the subject, as though he could pretend that Kennedy had agreed to his plan if no more was said about it.
"He warned me it might be deliberate," Kennedy answered, shortly.
Antonio's eyebrows rose and his expression betrayed a strange, surprised delight. "And what did you do? How does Trevellian's vinegrette smell?"
Kennedy frowned at him. "I'm acting the Earl of Cassillis, not some fainting schoolroom miss," he retorted, surprised at how free to be blunt with Antonio he felt. He did not like to be curt, as a rule, but Antonio was bringing out the same exasperated side of his personality that Hobbs always seemed to. "I told him, upon a little reflection, that I was sure it was an accident; that I had not felt anybody push me, nor a fault with the step or anybody trip me up. I said I had simply missed my step in the darkness and you had driven off. I conceded to him that you might have seen me fall and not cared to come to my aid, when he pointed that out, but no worse."
Antonio and Walker were both looking at him strangely.
"I do not believe I could feign convincing hysterics or act Lord Cassillis as a paranoid man; bypassing the matter altogether seemed the wiser course," he justified. He thought of Sawyer and his paranoia, and had to think that it wouldn't have been impossible to base such a response on that which he had observed in the ill-fated Captain. But it would not be a Lord Cassillis he would care to play, in such a case, and therefore not as easy, if there weren't just a hint of pleasure in it for him.
"You're better at this than you think," Antonio warned, serious for a moment. "That was exactly the right thing to do. A man just playing the part would be more inclined towards hysterics to cover himself; not rational conclusion, reasonably come to."
"But Lord Cassillis is a rational, reasonable man," Kennedy argued, not understanding.
Antonio smiled at Walker, who returned the gesture: how many times had he and Horatio smiled to each other like that? ­ unspoken, amused agreement between two firm friends. As always, there was a pang of acute pain when he thought of his friend. How is Horatio faring? But he pushed those thoughts away, unable to afford the distraction, for the moment.
"And being true to the character is why you're better at this than you think," Antonio concluded. "And however good you are, you're going to have to obey orders, I'm afraid. I'm pulling rank on you, Lieutenant; we will duel ­ I shall see to that ­ and we cannot set fire to the stables; otherwise what would we escape on? Our own horses would be there, after all."
Kennedy resisted the urge to remind Antonio that the arson had also been the spy's idea.

It was painfully ironic that Trevellian himself had provided the opportunity for Senor Antonio to recklessly challenge Lord Cassillis to a duel, but Antonio alone proved himself to be ruthless in his pursuit of his goal, an excellent judge of character and even if Kennedy had now quite decided he didn't like him, he couldn't deny that his trust would be well placed in such a man.
Nolan had indeed offered the most in terms of money, and damage to the British, so far as Trevellian was concerned, and Trevellian had sent two notes to Lord Cassillis.
One appeared to be something he wrote as a standard offering to failed parties, presenting commiserations, but pleasure, as always, of having dealt with them, and wishing them better success in their alternative or in future endeavours. It also invited him to protest at the decision, if he wished, but any appeal was to be made personally to Trevellian, and all those who had offered for the documents were also free to visit and make an eleventh-hour plea if they wished.
The second letter, however, confided to Lord Cassillis that with Trevellian having to consider his employer's wishes as well as his own, he must not act on his own whims, which was to hand over the documents to Cassillis. Kennedy didn't know whether that was true or not, and didn't suppose it would do harm for Lord Cassillis to believe the sentiment to be genuine, but the next paragraph made it quite irrelevant, as it was.
Trevellian was willing to act as a mediator between himself and Nolan (for a small fee to be paid by Cassillis), proposing that their mutual interests might be served by some co-operation between them. Since it was not the affair of France, he was a neutral party, interested only in England being weakened, and as their ambitions need not entirely conflict, there may be some room for collaboration. The basis of his suggestion was that Cramond would have to be attacked from Europe, not Ireland (since to launch a fleet from Ireland would require that fleet to sail right around the North of Scotland and her islands), and so Irish rebellion would not make any profit by such a direct approach. However; if Scotland's European allies could use Cramond as their own means of getting troops to Scotland, it would give the British something on their own island to think about, as well. The only difficulty would be getting past Leith, but with Scottish fog, there would be opportunities aplenty for that if the harbour were manned by the right people.
Since he didn't know what Nolan had planned to do with the knowledge the papers would give him, Trevellian hoped that both proposals might co-exist. Indeed, Kennedy had been wondering about the Irish interest.
Nolan had at least agreed to the meeting, which suggested there was some scope for collaboration, and Kennedy found himself nervous yet again. After the large party of two weeks ago, he was quite confident that Lord Cassillis could deal sufficiently with Nolan, but it was going to be a strain on Kennedy's imagination; he had concocted a story that Trevellian could understand and appreciate, but it had never been designed to withstand closer scrutiny ­ it was not developed enough for a clear tactical discussion, and since it was all fiction anyway, Kennedy found it difficult to be strategic about the matter. Neither had he seen the proposals for Cramond Harbour defences, or picture clearly enough the lie of the land to guess them.
But he did recall visiting Leith; Cramond would have the dual position of providing back-up for the port there, while also being sheltered by it. It also made for some swift exchange between the two, and Cramond was well placed to organise further journeys for supplies to other harbours or over-land concerns. Not to mention information; Antonio's very business. Lord Cassillis might dwell on this a while; he might be able to spin it out, even if it was all very dreary. There was no reason why Cassillis shouldn't speak in such an animated, enthusiastic fashion that he didn't notice he was being dull.
Perhaps he could suggest further co-operation; after all, with loyal men working at Cramond, they may be in the perfect position to pass information to the Irish rebels, when it was relevant, as well as Scotland's loyal Jacobites.
To add to his difficulty, he knew very little of Nolan, except for what he had seen. He was quite stocky; even shorter than Kennedy, although not by much, with dark hair, balding, and appeared devoid of the usual jovial Irish temperament. On the rare occasion that he did speak, he did so with a very slight inclination towards the Irish accent; (similar to the Scottish one he was affecting himself) perhaps the result of being educated in England, then living in Ireland for a long time, and he didn't drink at all. He was not very charismatic, which made him stand out in the company a little, since charm was part of the business of Trevellian's clients, but he came across as being solid and honest ­ appealing appearances in their own right, Kennedy supposed ­ but it didn't make matters easier. Surprisingly, he was also known to be religious.
But Kennedy had the awful feeling that Nolan would be listening very carefully to what Cassillis said, and any errors or mistakes on his part would betray his own campaign as badly formed, and perhaps a danger for one more organised to work with. He need not be worried about being uncovered, but Lord Cassillis was in grave danger of being found incompetent.
Does that matter? he thought to himself, then brushed off the concern. It didn't matter what people thought of Lord Cassillis, and god forbid that Kennedy actually start to care. He wasn't a real person (at least Kennedy's portrayal wasn't, even though the identity itself might be genuine), and had one purpose only; to get those plans back to England and out of enemy hands! And now Nolan would have them in his possession, Walker's theft was the only answer, and his duel with Antonio the only distraction they could think of.
Their clandestine meeting had given them a little time to contrive that Antonio would be officially protesting Nolan's possession of the plans; backed up by Don Carlos, although Carlos would not be making his own appeal ­ the militia took their loses more gracefully in such matters. Somehow he would have to find out about negotiations from either Trevellian or Nolan, or Cassillis if neither other gentleman would oblige, and with a hatred of Cassillis already in force, accuse him of attempting some conspiracy, of being a traitor and so forth, and finally demand satisfaction. He would happen to make his own visit while Cassillis was there.
Walker had been replaced as Antonio's coachman; apparently a genuine coachman, who bore some small resemblance to Walker, was now in his employ, and Walker was now among the Don's staff, having replaced somebody who had met with an 'accident'. Walker was going to steal the plans from under their noses as they fought the duel, and Kennedy had been told that Cassillis should do all he could to have them retrieved; short of betraying Antonio, of course, or leaping on to a horse and giving chase himself.
All said as though Kennedy would even think of doing anything so stupid.
Although I did throw myself out of that coach

 

CHAPTER SEVEN: HONOUR AMONGST SPIES

Fortunately, Lord Cassillis and Nolan had not spoken for long when they were interrupted, and Trevellian rose to greet other guests as the door was opened by his servant.
Kennedy smiled in a watery kind of way towards Nolan. He had been allowed to ramble on at length about the likely relationship between Cramond and Leith, and Nolan had nodded wisely. Although Pellew had not seen the plans for himself, either (something Sawyer was supposed to allow him, and did not), he had passed on some knowledge of proposed relationships between the two harbours; advantages that would be obvious to most once the second port was built.
He spoke with enthusiasm, calming only when Lord Cassillis had a coughing fit, or seemed to realise that he was becoming too animated for such a serious discussion. Trevellian looked on almost fondly at these points, as though seeing a child take his first tentative steps; who must be allowed to stumble if he were to learn. It fit Lord Cassillis amateur status all too well, and despite his difficulties, and trepidation concerning the proposed duel, he found yet further enjoyment in his act. It was becoming like a barrier; something he could hide behind ­ Lord Cassillis was the one in danger, while Kennedy could shelter himself.
Nolan returned his smile kindly, and Kennedy suddenly knew that Nolan had no intention of collaborating with anybody on these terms. However, he was a gentleman, and had begun this discussion with an open mind ­ or perhaps, Kennedy corrected himself; with hopes of a different proposition, which Lord Cassillis had failed to make in the meantime. He was perhaps still here because he was a well-mannered man, and didn't want to behave in such a suspicious manner when Lord Cassillis had disappointed him. It was becoming a little easier to read these secretive men, (just as he hoped to leave the situation soon ­ was that not typical; a lesson learned after it's principle usefulness was over), and Kennedy worried again that he was beginning to think like a spy. It made Lord Cassillis more of a shield for him, and Nolan did not seem like the worst man to deal with, if need be.
Dammit ­ am I going to end up liking every agent except those with the same loyalties? He liked Trevellian, in a strange sort of way; he was beginning to like Nolan; he had even liked the Spanish Don's sister!
"We have resisted relying on too many possibilities when forming our own intentions," he said, as though trying to continue, despite the interruption. "We would have to know more, naturally; but both of us want independence for our people ­ away from England's yoke," he said.
"Indeed," Nolan agreed, in his rich, deep voice. "I understand that you are attempting to rebuild your estates, my Lord. And the harbour might support certain types oftrade?"
"Excellent explanation for perhaps excessive interest," Kennedy started. He couldn't deny the poor state of Castle Culzean, but rather than make it's rebuilding the prime object, using it as cover made it seem more like Lord Cassillis had thought some distance ahead.
Kennedy crushed his disappointment when Trevellian returned with Don Carlos and the irrepressible Antonio. He was sure Nolan had been about to give him more information about Cramond Harbour; perhaps something Pellew needed to knowperhaps the reason the Commodore had been so concerned about these plans for so long, and why he wanted them removed from Sawyer's care. Kennedy had been forced to abandon his own curiosity on these matters when Renown had become such a severe task on it's own.
He stood to greet the party as Nolan did.
"We apologise for interrupting," Senor Antonio said. He looked Nolan up and down, then across at Cassillis. "Are you also here to protest?" he asked.
Kennedy restricted himself to a bow, overtly of agreement. Like himself, Lord Cassillis's instinct was to be honest, and floundering before delivering even the short lie of 'yes' would betray it as a lie. The implied acquiescence was a far simpler operation, and one Cassillis was more likely to employ, especially as Tevellian and Nolan would be witnessing this dishonesty.
He had to leave most of this challenge to Antonio. Although Kennedy found it easier and easier to be Lord Cassillis, he was still thinking on his feet, and he found he had to remember more for every new situation the Earl found himself in ­ he was immersed in maintaining his act, and between that and his need for the documents now in Nolan's possession, he had sparse attention for anything else. Antonio's experience was greater than his own, and all he could do to help was make the bow stiff, and regard the other agent suspiciously.
Kennedy also managed to exchange a glance with Trevellian, who looked on, for the most part impassive, but it was a glance that betrayed some mutual wariness.
Antonio sneered at him, and then shifted attention back to Nolan. Trevellian seemed resigned to the situation, and Kennedy began to suspect that Senor Antonio was portrayed as a poor loser, who would try to challenge the victor directly, arbitrarily choosing Trevellian's property as his battle-ground. And that this was not the first occasion he had done so.
"Congratulations, Senor Nolan," he addressed. "I am pleased for a fellow Catholic."
"Gracias, Senor," Nolan returned, making his own bow, more graciously. He spoke better Spanish than Cassillis was able, but not as well as Kennedy could.
"I might suggest some co-operation," Antonio continued.
Kennedy didn't have to feign his new level of alertness. Or his sense of sudden alarm ­ Antonio intended to play this very close to the bone; too close! There was a belligerent look about him that frightened Kennedy and sent warning flashes through his mind of an approaching crisis.
"I am sorry, but I am already in such negotiation with my Lord Cassillis," Nolan said.
Kennedy swallowed and bowed again, when Antonio turned his glare towards him.
"You would consort with him?" he asked Nolan, with a high, bitter laugh.
"Our business is private, sir," Nolan responded.
"But he is a traitor. A traitor from a family of traitors!" Antonio spat. In a way it was a bit of an obvious, general sort of accusation: not up to Antonio's usual standard at all, and Kennedy began to feel that this was going to go disastrously wrong. Was Antonio genuinely drunk, now? This seemed careless and chaotic when there were a hundred better answers he could have made than that vague accusation. It was the kind of charge brought when a man wanted to pick a fight and didn't care how he achieved it.
He calmly let his eyebrows rise and let some of the strange foreboding he felt to leak into his voice. "I have never claimed allegiance to England, Senor," he said. "My loyalty is to Scotland, and I have never pretended otherwise."
"Lord Cassillis speak the truth," Trevellian responded. "He has told me as much himself, and made no pretence among my other acquaintance. I run a safe operation, Senor."
"And his cousin?" Antonio said, slyly.
Kennedy felt as though he wanted to be sick.
"If my cousin wishes to serve in the British army, then that is his own affair," Kennedy said, stiffly. "And I see no complaint that you can possibly make against my agent ­ he cares nothing for such matters!"
"And your other cousin?" Antonio dug, maliciously. If this was Antonio's full act, then he began to understand the foundation for some of Trevellian's concerns about him. This 'act' was turning into something truly malicious.
"I have no other cousin," he retorted, just a little too quickly.
"The mutineer!" Antonio said, turning a look on Kennedy that, for the life of him, he could not tell was part of the act or genuine. Kennedy had always been able to read people to some extent; granted sometimes Pellew took him off balance, and he always knew when he had said or done the wrong thing, when he couldn't predict beforehand, but here and now, he truly felt as though Antonio hated him to a depth unimaginable. Hated him enough to drag all this out into the open when they were surrounded by enemies. Perhaps betrayal had been his intention all along.
Feeling as though he might be ill, Kennedy repeated in a distressed whisper, "I have no other cousin."
"We are not dealing with Lord Cassillis cousin, here," Trevellian said, shortly.
"He murdered his Captain; Sawyer - the 'hero of the Nile' as he's called."
Kennedy could not answer. How could Antonio bring this up? Here? How could he expose Kennedy to the threat of exposure by bringing up his true identity? He had been aware that Antonio was going to play this very dangerously, but this risk was filled with insanity. It was like being trapped in a nightmare from which there was just no escape. Kennedy felt sheer panic rising. And how could Antonio target him with the events on Renown? He must have known the memory was distressing: just like the raid on Papillon; just like Mullizac.
In the silence, Trevellian stepped in. "Let us be honest. None of us would be called honourable if our dealings were known beyond these walls. I think to demand such of our relations would make us hypocrites. And I have no interest in Lord Cassillis' cousins, whoever they may be."
It was the boldest statement Kennedy had ever heard Trevellian make. And it came in time to spare him. For all that, however, Kennedy was wondering whether he was about to be exposed by Antonio. His verbal assault had a true viciousness to it, and if it were an act, then Kennedy simply couldn't see through it. The only argument he couldn't answer was that he had nothing to offer Antonio; nothing that wasn't better offered by another. He had phoney papers, but any man in this room could acquire such, if he chose, including Antonio, himself. And his knowledge of Pellew would be remarkable for any enemy spy! Or was he a sacrifice?
His breath was coming in sharp gasps, and he was not sure whether he could maintain his part as Lord Cassillis under this kind of assault. His thoughts whirled in circles, and he sat down again, heavily, as he came again to how Antonio could bring up Renown.
"How can you collaborate with such a man?" Antonio demanded of Nolan, in disgust. "When these are his credentials?"
"Perhaps we should conclude our discussion at a later date," Kennedy said to Nolan, quietly, retrieving his cane and standing. He wanted nothing more than to escape from Antonio's presence.
As he straightened, Antonio planted a hand in the centre of his chest.
"Kindly unhand me, sir," he said, shakily. He didn't have to act nervous - he genuinely felt it. He was trapped between Antonio and the chair from which he had just arisen.
"He cannot be trusted," Antonio said, unhanding him, as requested. He then proceeded to wipe his hand on his breeches. "And if Senor Nolan will treat with him, then I have many reasons for complaint."
"I merely provide the information; I do not direct its use once it has left my hands," Trevellian responded, neutrally. "And I will not intervene. Perhaps I would change my mind if you can offer some new information or a higher price. Strictly speaking, we all have dealings in the information business; can any one of us be trusted more than any other?"
Kennedy was in just enough control of his faculties to realise that this was an effective way of having his clients inform on each other. There was always the chance that Trevellian himself had failed to find deception, and such scrutiny by others might put off anyone from attempting a double-cross.
In a way, it was like war - so terribly barbaric on the one hand; with messy death and injury a constant, ugly risk, and yet so civilised on the other ­ addressing the enemy as 'sir', and trusting a man's parole once it was given. All Antonio's accusations were unfocused and clumsy; if Cassillis kept feinting the verbal blows and Trevellian kept rigidly to his own indifferent attitude, Antonio would have to challenge him; he had put himself in that position by now. If only it were not so terribly disturbing to feel as though Antonio were a genuine enemy; to see no sparkle of humour, as he had on their last two meetings.
"I suspect conspiracy, here," Antonio said, waving carelessly at Nolan and Kennedy.
Again Trevellian stepped in, some slow fuse on his temper beginning to show. "You and I have dealt with each other a great deal, Senor Antonio," he replied. "And you know that I am careful not to allow such things to happen. Neither is it the first time I have personally facilitated co-operations between two of my clients and I doubt it will be the last. I am well enough acquainted with Monsieur Nolan to realise that there are no prior connections between himself and Lord Cassillis."
"Ahhhh, now I see it," Antonio realised, turning again to Kennedy, his eyes startlingly black with anger. How did you fake something like that? "I see that he knew he couldn't afford your price, and he has wanted Senor Nolan to win them, so he might collaborate with him. He knew he could not succeed with me, and so has ensured my failure! I do not usually fail to come to a satisfactory arrangement over such matters."
"With all due respect to my Lord Cassillis," Trevellian said, sternly, "his opinion does not direct mine. It had no bearing on my decision."
Even Don Carlos did not looked pleased with Antonio's conclusion. Or at least, he did not appear pleased that it had been voiced, even though he might suspect the truth of it, whatever assurances Trevellian offered.
"If you will excuse me," Kennedy murmured to Trevellian and Nolan.
"No!" Antonio insisted. "I demand satisfaction!"
There it was; the challenge. The sudden rightness of the moment had caught Kennedy aback; somehow the whole conversation seemed to fit - the wild accusations, the anger that he had failed to get the plans for himself, the bitterness with which he now conducted himself all seemed to be consistent. Kennedy realised he was shaking, and that he had been too dazed to reply to the challenge immediately.
"This goes too far!" Trevellian declared. "I will not allow it."
"He deserves to join his cousin in hell!" Antonio insisted. "I tell you, there is conspiracy, and he has brought it here!"
"I would make a poor living if I allowed the casual slaughter of all my clients, Senor Antonio," Trevellian reasoned. "And we all ­ yourself included ­ conspire with others at some point. It would not be an equal match; you know that Lord Cassillis still recovers from the incident when you conducted him to his lodging, Senor."
Antonio looked as though he might explode with frustration. Kennedy found himself in an abstract frame of mind in which he wondered whether Antonio used his actual emotions to bleed into the act, to add conviction. Hadn't Kennedy used his nervousness over his act to simulate nervousness over entering the intelligence underworld? Was he not frightened and confused now, as Kennedy; just as Cassillis might be frightened and confused on finding himself challenged like this? Perhaps Antonio was using his frustration of not yet having their duel settled to be taken for frustration that he couldn't just kill Kennedy outright!
"Then he insults me!" Antonio declared, almost in triumph. "I offer him my hospitality and facilitate his return to the lodging, and laid no violent hand on him."
"Yet he did not quite reach the lodging safely," Trevellian pointed out.
"I made no accusation, sir," Kennedy added.
"Not before me, I note," Antonio snapped. "And I demand that you answer for it! You have turned opinion against me. If you are well enough to conduct your business; you are well enough to face me."
Kennedy turned to Trevellian, and in French, noted quietly, "he gives me little choice, Monsieur."
Antonio had been right about one thing, at least. It was easier to improvise; he could not have done this to a script ­ even a rough one ­ with any semblance of conviction. Trevellian regarded him, and gave him a small, comforting nod, as though to promise he would take care of the situation.
"You will not accept my word that he uttered no accusation against you, Senor?" Trevellian tried.
"I will not! You have not witnessed his every conversation, I am sure, Monsieur Trevellian."
"Then you make my business difficult," Trevellian told Antonio. "I cannot afford to lose my reputation as a safe and impartial information dealer, and the death of one client at the hands of another will certainly do me much harm. Unless I were to demonstrate that I could successfully resolve the matter."
Antonio looked abashed, even ashamed, as though only now realising that his revenge on Cassillis might also harm his chief source of intelligence and illicitly obtained information. But his honour would not allow him to withdraw the challenge, and a struggle stood out clearly on his animated face. Whatever pride Kennedy felt in his own pretence was dimmed considerably when faced with this sheer brilliance. Honour and Trevellian's reputation could only be satisfied now if Antonio were to agree to First Blood, rather than death. And Antonio had manipulated them all to this very point. He had been correct in his assessment that Kennedy thought him an amazing man: he truly was. "Then-" he stuttered, and went no further.
"Have you experience with shooting?" Trevellian asked Kennedy.
"I- I have shot pheasant at Culzean," he responded, since it would be the only shooting Lord Cassillis had ever done, but was likely to have participated in as an Earl with his own estate. That Cassillis had every right to be terrified at the thought of a duel covered any betrayal of calm at this lie. "I have some skill."
"With a rifle," Trevellian confirmed. "Then any challenge must be settled by the sword."
"It makes no difference to me," Antonio declared, with a wave of his hand. "AlthoughI regret the inconvenience to Monsieur. That was not what I intended."
"Then perhaps you would agree not to kill Lord Cassillis?" Trevellian tried, smoothly.
More blustery frustration from Antonio showed that he was coming to the conclusion that this was the only way out of the chaos he had generated. And while his stalling persisted, Trevellian pressed his advantage. "That way, it would satisfy your own honour, and that of Lord Cassillis, since you have made your own accusations. And I need not be afraid to deal with either of you again, since honour was satisfied. Will this be sufficient, Senor? To generate as little inconvenience to any of us as possible?"
"Very well," Antonio agreed, stiffly, as though it were the only polite solution to his problem.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT: THE DUEL

It had been agreed by Don Carlos and Nolan that Lord Cassillis and Antonio should fight shortly after dawn, so there would be enough light for all parties to see by. The terms of First Blood had been agreed on, although Antonio had instructed Carlos to try for a duel to the death, again. This term was rejected by Nolan.
As their adjudicator, Trevellian was unable to contact either of them privately, but Kennedy was confident that the man would be fair: he liked Lord Cassillis, and he valued Senor Antonio's business. He couldn't be much more neutral than he already was, and his position as adjudicator had been assumed by all present.
Kennedy was also spared the effort and necessity of behaving like a man nervous. He really was nervous ­ not about getting hurt (he knew that he was to lose this particular battle, and expected some pain as a result; but that was no new experience. He had been hurt, and hurt worse in service before), but he had never had to play-act a duel; not even as a child. Two sticks with hilts made of string and twigs with his cousin, who was even then eager for the army, and himself keen for the theatre: they would hack inexpertly at each other, trying to apply to mock battle what they had learned from their tutors. But even though neither really intended to hurt the other, they hadn't exactly acted.
Now, he was used to duelling for his life, with a cutlass, not a rapier. Perhaps the awkwardness of the slender, lighter and longer blade would make him look more inexperienced and inexpert. That would be a blessing! It would have to be just right, of course: as a gentleman, he would have been taught to fence, but as a man of poor health, could not have been expected to practise a great deal.
He was the first to arrive at the appointed place upon Trevellian's estate, with Nolan. He thanked the Irishman profusely and apologised to him a great deal for the inconvenience. Nolan had claimed it would be improper to deal over the contract and from the look of sympathy which developed on Nolan's face, Kennedy imagined he had managed to pitch his disappointment at just the right level. It was now becoming an effort not to be over-confident in his act, and he predicted that he was going to be impossibly smug if they actually managed to pull this off, and his abilities held to this new, unexpected, limit.
Antonio made an entrance ­ late, of course ­ worthy of the finest Drury-lane farce. Don Carlos hovered behind him impatiently, presumably his return to Spain had been delayed and he was irritated with Antonio as a result. Kennedy exchanged a look with Nolan, caught Trevellian's eye, and their adjudicator walked over to Don Carlos, to enquire whether Antonio really was as drunk as he looked.
Kennedy began to prepare himself for the fight. He was wearing sturdy boots, and decided ­ despite the chill ­ to remove his jacket and cravat. He used the sword from the cane, as well: he had hoped any discovery of the concealed blade would prompt the discoverer to think him a little pretentious, rather than find it suspicious, so it was better for him to behave as though nothing were amiss with using it, here. And it was a fine blade ­ nobody could accuse Commodore Pellew of having a miserly nature.
Antonio was busy stripping down to shirt and breeches as well, polishing the blade of his sword in a most threatening manner. Although playing the drunk, he looked as coldly towards Kennedy as he had while issuing challenge.
Walker!
Kenney bent quickly, on the pretence of folding his jacket with undue care to hide his alarm. He was supposed to be busy stealing the plans, not playing his own role of Carlos' servant! Were things going so desperately wrong already? Unlessoh ­ surely Nolan wasn't carrying the plans around with him, was he?
Sawyer did, he recalled, against his will.
He forced himself to calm down, and comforted himself with a mental picture of Bush, with his sharp wit: I would, he imagined his friend's voice saying. It was more consoling than painful, at this moment.
"Senor Antonio is drunk," Trevellian explained to Kennedy, quietly. "But he insists on fighting. I did suspect some ruse; that he might excuse your murder by such, and he still prefers to fight to the death. However Don Carlos is certain enough that he did drink into the small hours, and I trust his judgement."
"You really feel I am in such peril?" Kennedy asked, too tense, now, to take any pride in how high, thin and weak his voice sounded.
Trevellian smiled wryly. "I think your chances have improved," he said, reassuringly. "And I shall be prepared to intervene, as will Mr. Nolan." At this, Nolan nodded in confirmation.
"Are you quite well, Lord Cassillis?"
"Yes, thank you," Kennedy replied, faintly. "I justI did not exactly expect to find this visit easy or simple, but I did not imagine that my difficulty would lie in a duel. I cannot think how it came to this."
"Senor Antonio has a number of cousins among the Spanish Fleet. Perhaps your cousin, that he seemed to despise for your sake, sank a ship with one of his aboard." There was more exasperated sarcasm in Trevellian's tone than true presentation of a possibility, but it did show that Senor Antonio's biography was as extensive as Lord Cassillis' own. Had Antonio replaced a real person? Trevellian continued: "he frequently takes against newcomers to my services as he fears competition, and dresses his reasons in frivolous nonsense. Mr. Nolan can only just consider himself safe, and Senor Antonio's reasons for mistrusting him extended only to his Irish background."
"He did not trust Mr. Nolan because he is Irish?" Kennedy asked, to confirm that he had heard correctly; there was no mistaking the Irish lilt in Nolan's voice; nor the Irish nature of his very name and loyalties. They were not something Nolan had troubled to hide.
"Apparently," Trevellian confirmed. "Now he is willing to show some leniency, because Mr. Nolan is revealed as a Catholic, like himself. As I said; Antonio is malicious and unsubtle. I deal with him because he is rich and has influence and connections that my employer cannot afford to ignore, however great an inconvenience he is to me, personally."
Kennedy tried to smile, so did Lord Cassillis, and neither quite managed the feat.
"What delays you?" Senor Antonio demanded, in Spanish. "Or are you an equal coward to your relations?"
Lord Cassillis took a deep, bracing breath and stepped up with some appearance of calm. He bowed to his opponent in a perfunctory manner, while Senor Antonio indulged in an exaggerated flourish over his own salute, and staggered as he straightened, so ruining the effect. Kennedy managed to exchange another glance with Nolan and Trevellian: Nolan didn't smile, but gave him a nod of encouragement. Trevellian, of course, had to remain neutral.
In their first exchange, they tested one another; both cautious and unwilling to commit. Precisely how a duel ought to open, and if Antonio were a little bold, well; he could safely assume himself to be fitter than Lord Cassillis. They circled, and Kennedy managed to retain some control by manoeuvring Antonio into facing the sun. Antonio still glared at him with no hint of his former warmth, but did not attempt to push his opponent around again, as though too drunk to realise his disadvantage.
Kennedy had not underestimated how difficult this would be, either. His instincts screamed against the restraint he was having to show; he wanted to handle the rapier like a cutlass; Antonio seemed an easy target which he felt he ought to be ridding himself of in order to get to the next enemy and the next. He was used to fighting boarding parties, or as part of one. They parried, thrust and swung (Cassillis stumbled, and Antonio reeled), and Kennedy found himself discovering new strategies to cope with this act: he remembered always to treat Antonio's feints as genuine, so he was often fooled; he failed to press his advantage when he got it, by being beaten back by any more determined opposition from Antonio. Finally, he was pretending that Antonio was a child (albeit a tall one), whom he was trying to instruct. Kennedy had taught midshipmen their weaponswork, but rarely had to spar with them, unless there was an odd number, but he tried to pitch his ability at the level he used with the young gentlemen. It became just a little easier.
Lord Cassillis needed to tire, about now. Kennedy pretended to wipe sweat from his eyes, and Antonio brought his sword across suddenly, but mis-aimed, and Kennedy nearly forgot to fall, rather than parry and return thrust. He did try an equally clumsy strike from the ground, which tripped Antonio away from him, and Trevellian paused the battle, as Antonio attempted to launch a fatal attack.
Kennedy took his time getting to his feet, stalling more than Cassillis actually needed, but as he might do in order to acquire a little breathing space. His trousers now stuck to his legs in damp patches, uncomfortable, but familiar, and his fall had probably been the most exciting moment their spectators had witnessed in the clumsy, half-baked duel.
He afforded a few seconds to glance again at Nolan, who now stood with Carlos. Both were trying not to laugh, along with the village apothecary, who had come to attend to any injuries. It was a temptation almost irresistible to play up to the comedy of the situation, now he was aware of how entertaining it was proving. It was a strange irony that this duel really was closer to a theatre farce than it was to a matter of honour.
Mustn't be over-confident, Kennedy reminded himself. Mustn't winmustn't laugh.
Antonio was doing better, now. It was harder and harder not to try and match him, as he would begin to do with a Midshipman. He had no idea what Walker had been doing ­ did Antonio? The other agent knew that he would have to finish the fight, and Kennedy was growing anxious about how long this could go on without the watchers becoming suspicious, or himself making a mistake. He stumbled twice more, and felt foolish for drawing in breaths as painful gasps, when there really was no necessity for it. Maybe this would have been easier if he remained in poorer health.
He made two awkward blocks, failing to return any attack on both occasions, and then came a kind of signal from Antonio; a light scraping on the back of his hand that didn't break the skin. But it burned somehow, and his fingers convulsed involuntarily around the weapon he held. His instinct was to grab it more firmly, an instinct he could not help but obey. However, he loosed his hold in the next instant as Antonio's sword sliced into his forearm and he heard himself scream. The same burning sensation, amplified a thousand times stronger, lanced across the deep cut.
Kennedy had sword wounds all over his body which could testify to the familiarity of injury: he had continued a fight with his leg sliced upon, or a shoulder speared; his back slashed and even his side, below a rib, stabbed. It had never felt like this!
Reminding himself that Lord Cassillis was not used to such wounds, he fell to his knees, and the apothecary was already on him; Nolan and Trevellian both stood between him and Antonio, so he could not see the other agent. The wound was burning agony, and he clutched his other hand over the wound; it was a long, deep slash that ran from the front to the underside, bisecting the long vein so it bled profusely. He tried to ignore the pain, but it persisted in its quest to intrude on his notice. It should not hurt like this.
Kennedy was being helped to his feet, now, by Nolan and the apothecary held his injured arm. The skin either side of the cut seemed oddly red; the skin on the back of his hand was reddened and flushed unnaturally, as well. Certainly it was bleeding to an extent that gave the illusion of a very serious wound, but it was difficult to focus his attention through the haze of pain.
Could Antonio have poisoned him? He recalled the threatening manner with which Antonio cleaned his blade before the fight; it would have been easy for a man of his ability and resource to dress it with poison, and Kennedy thought briefly of Hamlet. He felt sick, and couldn't determine whether it was from a real, penetrating fear or some more sinister reason. Would it bring on a fit if he was poisoned? Did Antonio know about the fits as he seemed to know everything else? Kennedy hadn't suffered one since well before Renown, and he had done his best to leave them buried in his past, where nobody need come across them. Would and could Antonio have dug them up?
He was being laid down, now, and dimly heard Antonio gloating loudly in Spanish, presumably to Don Carlos. The apothecary was tying a tourniquet, which did improve the bleeding, but seemed to make the burning pain worse. He didn't hold back any gasps or moans that wanted to escape, grimly determined to be Lord Cassillis to the last ­ to die as Lord Cassillis, if Antonio had betrayed him. Trevellian was speaking with the Spaniards, hopefully settling the matter once and for all, and he had to fight not to deliberately look for Walker. Did the other agent have the papers? Were they on their way back to England? Or Spain?
But Walker was approaching him, still as a servant, and bringing Kennedy's jacket with him. His cravat had been used as the tourniquet, but Walker addressed him in thick Spanish that was difficult for Kennedy, never mind Cassillis, to muddle through. He held the jacket in an unmistakeable gesture, and Nolan began to raise him enough that he might manoeuvre his other arm through the sleeve, and wrap it around him. They tried to avoid his injured arm. He was genuinely grateful for the warmth now that he realised he was sweating in the chilly air, making himself still colder.
Any idea that there was something amusing about the duel was now gone, apparently from the spectators as well as participants. He lay back, the question of poison still on his mind, and whether there were any that took this long to work. Perhaps Antonio just wanted to make him ill; so far he did feel sick, but that could still be his own worry and fear. Walker patted his chest, awkwardly.
Awkwardly because there was something in the inner pocket of the jacket that pressed against his sweat-damp shirt.
It felt tantalisingly like a wad of papers.
Trevellian consulted the apothecary, and they began to make arrangements to have Lord Cassillis moved to the Chateau. Kennedy wanted to protest, but Lord Cassillis didn't speak French well enough to understand their rapid discussion and the carriage was ordered while Kennedy tried to look bewildered as well as hurt. The last place he wanted to be was under the direct care of Trevellian, who was too clever by half.
He saw Antonio, with his arm slung over the shoulders of Don Carlos, in an unsuitably familiar gesture, walking away from the field of combat, under the disappointed gaze of Trevellian. Perhaps if he was genuinely fooled by Antonio, he was not so clever as Kennedy feared, but that belief would tempt him to be careless, and he couldn't afford to feel confident as Lord Cassillis if he were to remain on the alert. Especially not if he were to be observed for a prolonged period of time.
So he couldn't even be pleased that the most severe test seemed to be over.

 

CHAPTER NINE: ONE FINAL DISASTER

Kennedy heard nothing from Walker or Antonio during his recuperation at the Chateau, and soon all he wanted to do was return to England and Commodore Pellew with the plans. Nolan had left the day after the duel, and the apothecary had treated his injured arm, bled him, given him much advice (in French) that Dr. Sebastian would have shuddered to hear, and told him that, ultimately, the best thing would be never to duel with swords again, since he was so bad at it. He should learn to shoot a pistol. The last advice, from what Kennedy could tell of his abilities, was the most useful thing the apothecary could do for him.
God alone knew what would have happened to him if it had turned out Antonio poisoned him; leeches, quite possibly. He had to conclude that whatever dressed the sword had been painful, but otherwise harmless; oil and vitriol, perhaps to enhance his act as the fragile Lord Cassillis ­ maybe for another reason, although he couldn't imagine what. Perhaps, Kennedy thought, I can't think enough like a spy to work that out. And that notion was a comfort, especially as he was eager, now, to leave.
Trevellian was a congenial host, having making Cassillis's apologies with Monsieur and Madame Bonville for him, and ensuring that his property was transported to the Chateau. He was a busy man, too, as another soiree was organised for various clients and friends, which Lord Cassillis attended as a mere guest, once he was well enough. The Frenchman explained that he always had some business going on, and that he didn't just do it for money, or for France, but because he found it challenging in a way that no other service could satisfy.
"The Army or joining the French Fleet would be exercise for my body only; and I do not find study gives me enough challenge, or daring. No; this is the only path for me," he had told Lord Cassillis as they ate breakfast one morning. Kennedy began to feel a grudging respect for him, as well. He would rather war was not fought with guns, knives and thousands of men killed on land, or at sea; he preferred something more civilised, which could still stretch the resources and abilities of the respective countrymen, without having so many die or injured. "What is the point in victory, when there are no Frenchmen left to celebrate it?"
As he learned more about Trevellian's character and responses, Kennedy had to come to the conclusion that Lord Cassillis never stood a realistic chance of obtaining the plans. His knowledge of spying and Secret Services was woefully inadequate and Trevellian had simply used him to drive the price up; letting others (such as Antonio) perceive him as a threat, and while he may believe Lord Cassillis sincerity about the Jacobean Heir, he either didn't believe it could be true, and Cassillis operated under an over-optimistic fantasy, or he didn't care whether it was or not. More than half his kindness, Kennedy suspected, was a sympathetic brand of patronisation.
But he did learn a considerable amount about the spying industry in the days of his convalescence; lessons he thought it best not to forget ­ in case his days as a Lieutenant in His Majesty's Royal Navy were truly over, and he was forced to make a new life.
Trevellian also took all other arrangements out of Lord Cassillis' hands, booking his passage home aboard a French supply ship that was carrying another British passenger, to be taken to Dover under the neutral flag. Kennedy allowed him to do so, although he currently wanted nothing more than to rejoin Dr. Sebastian at Bordeaux, and travel on a British ship. In the end, he sent the good doctor a letter, with pre-arranged comments within, stating that he had been hurt, and could Dr. Sebastian attend him.
Or must you return to dismal England?
That was the question that told Sebastian he could leave as soon as he pleased, and that whatever else lay in the letter, Kennedy would follow him soon. Had he described England as 'wet' or 'rainy', Dr. Sebastian was needed to attend him and could do so in safety: if England was 'beloved', it meant Kennedy was lost beyond retrieval, and Dr. Sebastian should consider himself in danger, and leave immediately. If he had described 'cheery' England, then Sebastian could wait for him, but Kennedy had never had any intention of writing that from the start ­ however much he wished for the company, and the comfort, it was a risk that did not need to be taken. Dr. Sebastian was too much of a friend for Kennedy to want any risk to him.
Trevellian even conducted him to the port, and handed him into the boat that would take him to the Janette. He said a very proper farewell.
"I must beg you to contact me, however, if you think I could be of assistance to you." There was an awkward pause, most unlike Trevellian. "And I shall correspond immediately if I discover anything that might help you in your pursuit of justice for Scotland or the rebuilding of your estates."
"You're too kind, Monsieur," Cassillis replied, recovering from a cough. He would have to warn his cousin of any such correspondence, and realised that he had a very long letter of apology to address to the real Earl of Cassillis and his agent. He might include one to his Army cousin for good measure, and maybe trouble the King with his apologies. "Really ­ I am most dreadfully sorry to have imposed on you for so long."
"It was a pleasure, my Lord," Trevellian replied, shaking his hand gently, being careful of his injured arm (although Lord Cassillis winced a little, nonetheless). "I wish you good fortune and a safe journey."
One of the Frenchman's valets accompanied him in the boat, and was given orders to assist him onto the ship that would carry him back to Britain. Kennedy tried not to let his trepidation show upon boarding: Lord Cassillis was supposed to be excited by the prospect of travel by sea, and not quite knowledgeable enough to realise that had Janette been part of the Royal Navy, it would be a prison hulk, not a ship in service!
"Ironically, I am never seasick," he had told Trevellian in the coach, when asked if he would be well to travel alone. "And I have survived a duel; perhaps my health is not so hopeless as I feared."

Kennedy woke the instant the canon fired, and his instinct was to run to the gun deck. He took a moment to think, bitterly, that it was an instinct he never wanted to lose if he was to be reinstated in the Navy. Instead, he had to restrain himself, only looking out of his tiny cabin to ask why the guns were firing, of a passing seaman. Janette's armaments were more token than actually useful.
"It is the Ennui, Monsieur," the man told him, eyes wide with fear. "A pirate feared by all! He takes small vessels, like this, and leaves survivors so a larger ship may rescue them, and lay herself open to be attacked by his Ennui!" He said more; it sounded like a comment about favourable weather, but the vocabulary was unfamiliar and lost in the roar of enemy guns: there was no time for elucidation, Kennedy let the man go with a brief nod.
He felt like the most cursed man in the world. Perhaps he should just get back into the hammock and sleep while the ship sink around him, since it was beginning to look as though he wouldn't get back to England, after all. His problems should be over by now; the return trip had not even featured into any coherent plan, since if the rest succeeded, it should be a ridiculously simple matter.
But they had been travelling rapidly; it was as likely, now, that a British vessel pick up any survivors from the sea as a French one; and if English, they should be warned by an accent they could trust about the pirate's activities, whether he was taken prisoner by either pirate or officer. Resigning himself to whatever fate might await, Kennedy began to dress himself, and reached out for the pouch containing his precious plans; he tied them around his waist, so they would not slip from his hands, or hamper him if he were called upon to fight pirates. As an extra precaution, Kennedy also fastened a bag of shot to them. He had a small knife he could use to cut the shot away, if he were to be left as a 'survivor', or if he were to be taken prisoner, he could cut the binding around his middle, so shot and plans would sink together, and not fall again into enemy hands.
Despite the cold weather of early February, he left his overcoat, not needing to be restricted by his 'gentleman's costume', but took the cane with its sword, and fastened his neckcloth in navy style (more by habit than thought), and prepared to fight once again. If he were lucky, he might be able to pick up a fallen cutlass to use, instead of the rapier. He even managed to wonder, grimly, if they made cutlasses in sword-canes.
Kennedy rushed up onto the deck, willing to be of assistance. Many of the sailors looked at him with an admiration that would, at any other time, have been flattering. But then, they thought he was some highborn British fop, returning home from business in Europe, and couldn't possibly know that he had seen more action at sea than they had. And whatever nationality they were, a pirate was a pirate and an enemy to all.
However, the aim of the pirates was not to board the Janette; he saw no action at all, except to watch as an idle by-stander as the canons on the frigate-sized vessel fired. The shots returned by Janette were nothing more severe than token gestures of her captain's anger. Kennedy was grateful that he left his cabin when he did, as a twenty-four pounder (at least) ripped through her hull. Had he survived the ball, he doubted he would have gone unmolested by the splinters it left. As Janette began to sink, he saw Ennui heading away from her, to lie in wait for any well-meaning passer by who would provide richer pickings: personally, in his frustration at this new disaster, Kennedy hoped for a damn big Ship-of-the-Line with a Captain who could afford to blow Ennui to toothpicks, rather than take her as prize.
It was while he swam against the pull created by the sinking vessel that he realised what the seaman he had intercepted was trying to tell him. If any vessel came to their assistance, Ennui would have the weather gage; that was the intended tactic, and it had a brutal kind of brilliance. If the wind changed; well - there was no law to govern that a pirate must carry through with a plan, whether Janette's survivors proved excellent bait, or not.
Just short of an hour later, however, Kennedy found that he would just be grateful to be out of the water. It was freezing, and his limbs, when they responded to his vague commands at all, were slow, and felt thick with numbness. He clung to splintered wreckage, unable to do much more than periodically check for his precious papers; the shot had been cut away long ago, since if he were to die here, the papers could sink with him, instead. He heard the occasional moan, and plea in French, where groups or lone survivors hung on to pieces of Janette, just as he did: Kennedy had tried to hold onto a young crewman who couldn't swim or speak English, and who shared his ruined planking, but after five minutes of staring without understanding into unblinking eyes, Kennedy realised the boy was dead, and let him go, muttering apologies under his breath, to distract himself from his peril, more than any more noble reason.
But he was too exhausted, now, for prayers on behalf of the dead, or for himself. The sounds around him had changed, but he scarcely noticed that, until two hands grabbed either of his arms, and he realised he was being pulled and manhandled onto the more solid deck of a whole ship, his body not proving especially co-operative in this effort. A lantern shone unnaturally bright in his eyes, blinding him as he tried to look around, and a blanket was thrown around his shoulders. Voices; English voices were conferring around him, hurriedly, sounding excited, but strangely disbelieving. The lantern departed, and a cup of hot rum was pushed to his lips, as he sat slumped against the railing.
Someone shouted for a space to be kept around him, and he recognised the voice, but now the lantern had gone, he had no light to identify the large figure leaning over him, or the leaner, smaller frame that harried men away from him. The lantern was bobbing back across the deck, now with another, tall figure in tow, and Kennedy looked up wearily, again. The lantern was put near his face, so he might get the best possible view of this newcomer. But nothing could have sufficiently prepared him for what he saw. A man in Commander's uniform bending over him, his mouth slightly open as he took in the ragged apparition before him.
Kennedy turned his head tiredly towards Hornblower, and he found himself looking into familiar brown eyes, and at a look of disbelief. "Horatio." He breathed the name in relief and joy, and rested his hand on the arm of his friend. "I thought this may be purgatory, again; but here is heaven!" And Kennedy laughed at his own joke, pirates, papers and spies momentarily forgotten.

For a moment, Hornblower had expected to wake from a dream. It would not be the first time he had dreamt Kennedy alive - always alive and laughing, which was some consolation when he woke. And Kennedy sat against the rail ­ wet and exhausted, but alive and laughing. He had sometimes dreamed of Clayton, and lately Bracegirdle, but nobody so frequently as Kennedy, and if the dead really did haunt his dreams, then only Kennedy had the kindness to be cheerful, and not as dour as Bracegirdle or frightened as Clayton, or accusing as Captain Sawyer or the other reprimanding gazes of men ­ Bunting, Finch, Hunter ­ who had died at his command, by his side, or by his own hand.
But it wasn't a dream; he didn't wake up. Kennedy was still sitting there, shivering and assuring Matthews that he was well, while Wellard looked pale and uncertain, and Styles crouched by him with his mouth hanging open.
Hornblower had stood up; emotions whirling out of control as he tried to tame them. "Get him below and out of those wet clothes," he snapped, turning away, and hoping to retrieve some sense of the situation without the distressing apparition of Kennedy before his eyes.
The first thing he managed to conclude was that he was angry. At the moment, he was angry at Kennedy, because there was no other immediate target, and to be angry at anybody else seemed too complicated. He further realised that he also felt as though he had taken an undeserved blow. For two years he had grieved over Kennedy; the younger man had been like the brother he had never had; that was how it was since they had first met: for ten years he had a brother as dear to him as any blood relation. He valued Bush just as highly, although they had not been friends for as long, and there was a distance to maintain since he was now a Commander, and captain of his own vessel. Bush was a very different creature to Kennedy, besides, which made it easier to be friends without feeling as though he were betraying Kennedy, and he could maintain his regard for Bush because he didn't replace Kennedy. Yet for two years, Bush had not dared utter Kennedy's name in front of him, and Hornblower couldn't lie to himself so convincingly ­ he was not as close to Bush as he might like, for fear of losing him, as he had lost Kennedy.
Hornblower paced the deck in the tight, terse pattern that told the crew not to disturb him unless they sighted an enemy frigate or Hotspur was sinking. He remembered for a few awful seconds those minutes after he asked Bush to be his First Lieutenant: he had always imagined offering any such post to Kennedy; then he reflected that to have done so would have a serious impact on Bush's career; not only had Hornblower been promoted over him, but to make the offer to Archie - to Kennedy, he reminded himself - would be to promote his friend over Bush as well. Yet not to offer to Kennedy would hurt him deeply, and Hornblower knew it would have been a wound kept hidden from him, simply because Kennedy adored him. Far too much in Hornblower's opinion.
And those terrible, awful moments when he had been grateful to be spared the dilemma. Grateful! What kind of creature was he to find any reason for gratitude that Kennedy was dead? The only gratitude to plague him previously was that he was spared from hanging; a gratitude shared by Bush, Pellew, and Kennedy himself! Then he felt stupid because nobody would have understood better, nor be more pleased for Bush, than Kennedy, since being Second Lieutenant would still be a promotion for him, and they would be together.
So every twinge of guilt since; every moment of pain - each time he saw a coffin lowered into the earth - and thought of the too-big box that he had noted at Kennedy's funeral: well, this concluded that puzzle - all of it could have been spared because Kennedy was alive - and laughing!
He heard footsteps behind him, and had to keep his temper well in check, not to explode at some innocent seaman or officer, who may have good cause to interrupt him. But he could hardly believe his eyes as he saw Kennedy, half-carried and half-supported by Styles, approaching him. Styles looked distinctly uncomfortable, and then Hornblower gave him a good reason for it; thank god Styles had already seen him at his worst! Here was the imperturbable Commander Hornblower, finding himself barking curses at Kennedy, hardly aware of what he was saying. Kennedy just stared at him, stupefied, with those hurt, blue eyes in his pale face. No longer laughing.
Now Bush was here, calmly telling him that the morning would be a better time to find out where the 'bloody hell' Kennedy had been.
"H- Horatio, please." The broken plea in Kennedy's voice damn near unmanned him, and Hornblower felt a new surge of anger begin to boil in his belly. "L- listen to me; whatever you th- think of me ­ H-Hotspur is in danger. E- Ennui ­ a p- pirate vessel ­ she'll attack ­ sh- she waits for v- vessels to effect r- r- rescue of wrecks and th- then comes d- down on them." His voice was unsteady with cold and something Hornblower was too impatient to identify. He raised a shaking arm, wrapped in wet shirt and bandages, pointing towards the isolated cliffs. "She'll h- have the w- weather g- g- gage!"
"Deck there: sail to starboard!" came Orrock's cry from aloft.
"Get him off my deck!" Hornblower snarled to Bush, with a rough gesture towards Kennedy. "I don't want to see him up here again!"
And then he was the captain of Hotspur again, fumbling for his telescope to see whether Kennedy's prediction was true, and Orrock's alert warned of danger. "Beat to Quarters!"

"Come along, Archie, you can use my berth." It was Bush's voice, persuading him to move away from Hornblower and his temper. Kennedy couldn't help but be hurt by Hornblower's reaction; the same shock at feeling the bullet enter his body on the deck of Renown was stealing over him, now. He even found himself pondering on this new disappointment, and his mingled triumph and fear for Horatio's ship dissipating as rapidly as night fog at dawn. He had been so deliriously happy to see Horatio after being hauled aboard, and even managed to joke. He had thought his luck had changed for the better when he realised that his old friend was not merely the officer of the watch, but captain of the ship. Kennedy admitted to himself, quite willingly, that he had not considered that nobody would have let Hornblower in on the scheme. Commodore Pellew or Dr. Sebastian having not passed on such information seemed a strange notion indeed.
I suppose the plan depended on secrecy, he admitted to himself. Why risk it? But it was difficult to believe, nonetheless. Having served separately only once, between Indefatigable and Renown, and even then exchanging weekly letters (more often twice-weekly in Kennedy's case), it seemed inconceivable that Hornblower was not familiar with his every move, with every detail of his life. In the intervening time of two years; how much of each others lives had they missed?
Knowing Hornblower had been thinking he was dead all this time made Kennedy feel as though his life were tentative and unsafe. Bush was enquiring after his health; was he all right; did he need the doctor; he looked terrible ­ he wasn't going to pass out was he? Like the rock of Gibraltar, Bush was taking his reappearance in his stride, and distantly aware that Hotspur and Ennui were about to engage, Kennedy nodded and attempted a smile, releasing Bush for more vital duties.
"Get some dry clothes from my sea-chest," was Bush's last, brief, invitation.
At least one old friend didn't seem to hate him.
The sodden jacket fell from his hand as he failed to grasp it properly. Kennedy looked at it stupidly for a moment, since he had intended to ensure his wet clothes were neatly disposed of in the corner so he was as little a nuisance to Bush as possible. Then he realised that he hadn't even fetched dry clothing to replace the wet ones he was taking off, and he suddenly felt utterly drained and exhausted. At least he didn't feel so infernally cold, any more, but he couldn't get the image out of his mind of Hornblower's face turning white with anger, and snarling as he ordered Kennedy below, as though he were something that sullied his deck, and not an old friend.
It had become a gesture of comfort to feel the papers against his skin, beneath his shirt, and he pressed them more closely to him, thinking that all this effort had been to regain his life; his career and his friends. And after completing every task, challenge and test thrown at him: pretending to be Lord Cassillis; a ludicrous duel with another British agent; attacked by pirates, of all things; and he felt as though he were being told that the life he wanted back no longer existed.

 

CHAPTER TEN: THE SEAWITCH

Ennui did indeed have the weather-gage. She had every gun-port open, though the guns were not yet run out; she was larger, carried a tremendous amount of canvass and bore down on Hotspur like a heron after salmon. Despite her size, there was no way Hotspur could outrun her; not even this close to England's shores. Hornblower could see no way to win this battle, but he could not conceive of surrendering without a fight. There would be little use, in any case, since pirates did not take prisoners, and they obeyed no law man had made. Even his surrender would be to no avail.
Hornblower tried to put the whole situation with Kennedy out of his mind. He barked orders quickly and efficiently, and in a matter of minutes had the ship ready for action. Although his crew waited to engage the enemy, Hornblower did not turn the ship, nor appear aware of her as an enemy, even having Wellard run up the signals to indicate they were rescuing the survivors of a wreck. It would not be a ruse that lasted for long if the signals were even understood, but it might buy them the chance at a broadside.
He had a couple of the less capable men pretending to be concentrating on rescue of Janette's passengers, and the marines were hidden beneath a tarpaulin. If the ship didn't look ready for action, she might gain some small advantage of surprise.

Kennedy eventually abandoned the idea of dry clothing. If there was to be a battle with Ennui, then Hornblower would need all hands, including his, and would realise it sooner or later. There was no point in changing his clothes, only to require more later, especially as Bush was sure to need some as well. This assumed, of course, that they survived.
He heard the canons thunder out, Ennui's shots being fired first, as Hotspur, with her limited supplies, had to be more certain of a hit before being forced to re-load. Hornblower would not surrender, and unless he was gravely mistaken, that would be fine by Ennui, who did not want prisoners, anyway. There went Hotspur's canons, now; as full a broadside as she could muster, no doubt. Still, Kennedy doubted that it had made much of an impression.
He was sorely tempted to get up on deck regardless, take charge of one of the guns, but it was ridiculously vain to think that he would make so much difference; or be so confident that the men would obey him (although seamen in the Royal Navy tended to respond a man who behaved as an officer, and knew what he was doing. That advantage of discipline might serve him yet).
No. It was foolish - Horatio would simply have him arrested. It hurt to think of Hornblower; he had spent so long avoiding thoughts of his dearest friend in France because it pained him to do so. Here and now, the thought that he had been picked up by Hornblower's own ship should be wonderful, but it hurt as much as ever. The look in his dark eyes as he ordered Kennedy below cut him as effectively and painfully as Antonio's vitriol-dressed blade.
Another crash of guns and the way the ship lurched and flung him to the deck, Kennedy knew that he could make little difference to Hotspur's efforts. She was slower to return fire, and he could picture with disturbing clarity the picture that must be unfolding outside. The ship felt suspiciously sluggish beneath his feet. She was trying to tack, but wasn't responding as she ought; Kennedy couldn't detect that the weather was against the manoeuvre. Holed, he thought bitterly, unable to account for the movement otherwise.
He made his decision, picking up his wet jacket and left the cabin. In an action that had become almost reflex, he checked for the plans, still in their pouch, around his waist. There was no opportunity for him to obtain more shot and repeat previous precautions, but if Hotspur was holed, and himself below-decks, then it would hardly matter. Kennedy used the feel of the ship to try and determine where the damage might be. He was sure he was not the only one searching, but nobody would refuse his help to plug a leak whether he was officer, civilian or prisoner. He would offer his parole to any man, if it came to that; he had no intention of escaping Hotspur, now. Not at all.
Forrard, he sensed, after a moment's concentration. Starboard, probably, but his immediate concern was to get to the bow. The quickest way was across the deck, and he even hesitated for a moment at the foot of the ladder. Then he reflected that Hornblower was going to be far too busy to notice him.
As he suspected, the captain ignored him completely as he emerged onto the deck. Men were already trying to close the hole in Hotspur's bow; Kennedy was surprised to feel a surge of disappointment that he could not even be of use here. He turned to leave the deck again, reluctantly: he didn't want to return to Bush's cabin.
It was so foolish. How often had he been frightened enough as a Midshipman to want nothing more than to hide away in a cabin belowdecks as battle raged at the guns? And as Midshipman, and beyond, how much had he wanted some privacy; a little space where he needn't be disturbed and could read without being teased about his 'high taste'? It was strange that now he had access to both, he wanted neither.
Ennui's guns roared out yet again, and Hotspur was all but helpless. She replied ­ or at least for a moment Kennedy thought she had. There was a thunderous crack and he found himself driven to the deck, crushed into a corner by heavy canvas and rigging as the mast crashed down and the ship pitched to larboard, ropes pulling taut. He was prevented from tumbling clean across the deck by a broken yard-arm, but Bush and Hornblower were flung down to the main deck to tumble amongst the crew, then one of Hotspur's canons tore loose and fell overboard.
The deck was now fully exposed to Ennui ­ the weight of the fallen mast and rigging had tugged the ship over on the larboard side. At least the hole at Starboard would have been pulled above the waterline, and since he couldn't see that far forwards amidst the confusion, Kennedy could only hope that somebody was taking advantage of this and repairing that hole. He freed himself from the canvas at last, but he left the yard-arm as it was. Hotspur was pitched to far over for him to have any sight of Ennui, but he was not the only one who could predict the pirate's next move.
Grape splattered over the deck, keeping the crew pinned down in whatever meagre shelter they had, and murdered two determined seamen, who were trying to attend one of the other canons. Hotspur rolled; the sea was becoming rougher and the massacre of rope and sail, along with the shattered wood of the mast threatened to drag the ship right over. Kennedy risked looking around ­ the others had come to the same conclusion, and he saw Hornblower, followed by his First Lieutenant move to come aft.
A shot from Ennui warned them off the attempt and another canister of grape scattered across the deck. Since they were so visible, Ennui's captain could see exactly what happened on deck, and whenever a man broke cover; he could simply shoot every time somebody attempted to solve their predicament.
However, if Kennedy couldn't see the pirate ship from his niche, then it meant that the pirate couldn't see him, either. There was a swath of sail extended across the deck; no difficult task for him to creep beneath it. Hornblower noticed him, then, and even in this desperate situation, looked angry. Kennedy had to push that situation to the back of his mind. If Hotspur kept rolling and pitching as the sea roughened, it wasn't going to matter whether the captain was annoyed with him or not, but strangely, he didn't want to die with his friend still angry. He wanted a chance to explain, and assure Hornblower that his survival had not been his own idea. It was a strange desire in the midst of this confusion.
Kennedy slithered beneath the canvas: a crewman lay either stunned or dead beneath it, with a boarding axe by his limp hand. It would be better for severing ropes than his knife, and without much more than a brief pause, Kennedy reached out for it, and crawled to the rail.
Unable to see exactly which ropes or canvas was keeping the tangle of wood, sail and rope clutching at the ship, Kennedy awkwardly hacked at anything that looked taut, strained or held fast. It was difficult work from beneath his cover, but it sheltered him from Ennui's sight, and kept him from being peppered with the deadly grape shot; he couldn't do this task if he were dead. Going unobserved was his best chance.
Hotspur was still reeling drunkenly to larboard, pushing him further to the rail, but as he slit yet another rope, he felt the bulk of the rigging give. The sail that protected him slid completely over the side, exposing him to Ennui's vicious captain's sight, and he knew he had only one more hack before the expected shot tore through him. One last rope at the rail - he failed to cut it completely through, his axe impacting with it at the same instant he heard Ennui fire, but he had done enough. The rigging slid over the side, it's hold on Hotspur loosed. The deck jarred upwards, throwing Kennedy clean to starboard, and there were confused shouts below him as men, unprepared for Hotspur's sudden swing, were also hurled about. The grape scattered harmlessly into the hull - comparatively harmlessly, at least - as she rolled up.
It could only ever have been a temporary reprieve. As he picked himself up, Kennedy heard a renewed roar of canons. That had been nothing less than full broadside. It was over.
So why were men cheering raggedly?
He raised his eyes in the direction they were looking, and behind Ennui, like an angry ghost, came a ship flying an Admiral of the White's flag. She bore down on Ennui, blithely demonstrating that the weather gage was now against the pirate, stolen by the elegant Frigate who had crept up behind her while she toyed with her helpless enemy. Kennedy found himself grinning foolishly. Hoist by her own petard! And finely done by the Admiral's ship.
The ship - Seawitch, if her distinctive green-and-grey colouring was to be believed - was equally merciless in her punishment of Ennui. She shot another broadside into the vessel before the pirate could replace her now-useless grape-shot with canon-ballss, then manoeuvred to catch her stern with carronades from the deck. Ennui was being thoroughly disabled; well paid for her actions against Janette and Hotspur.
There was someone at his elbow, removing the axe from his hand. Bush. Kennedy surrendered it willingly. "You'd be better below, Archie," the First Lieutenant told him. "The captain was muttering about the brig...and you should get out of those wet clothes...Are you all right, Archie?"
Bush kept saying his name as though requiring confirmation that it was none other than him. But this was not a time to argue or add to his troubles. Kennedy nodded, with a smile for his old friend, and headed below, to safety and privacy; neither of which he wanted.

This time, Kennedy took up Bush's offer of dry clothes, selecting the shabbiest of his property: if he were going to be hauled to the brig after all, he didn't want to do it in anything Bush would regret too much. He dragged the task out, making it last, but kept the papers where they were, despite the uncomfortable, damp rubbing of the twine he had used to make them inseparable. He fully intended to sleep with them there: the last joke would be if they were lost when it appeared he was now going to live. There was no point in giving chance the opportunity to play such a heartless game with him. Not when he had made his decision to face tribunal. He was not even sure when he had made that decision; sometime just after the water, he thought ­ when Hotspur had picked him up.
His bandaged arm ached, but the cut hadn't re-opened, at least. The surgeon and his mates would be too busy for so minor a discomfort. Ever-resourceful Bush, however, had some bandaging in his sea-chest and Kennedy was sure he wouldn't object to his using it. The one he had now was no worse than wet and dirty; it could easily be boiled and re-used, but Dr. Sebastian would want him to take proper care.
The First Lieutenant returned as he was trying to re-bind his arm. The skin was still reddened, although it was no longer painful and the cut made a dark line. It appeared more of a burn than a cut, but would make a handsome scar. Bush looked him over without much approval; the First Lieutenant was larger than he was, and Kennedy had taken no care to appear like an officer. But it felt good to be dry at last, and his friend took the bandage from him, to set about the task himself.
"So," he asked, carefully. "Where have you been?"
"France," Kennedy responded, vaguely. "On Commodore Pellew's orders." He looked down, suddenly aware of how little he was free to tell of his adventures. The mission had been confidential since before Renown, and he was no more permitted to divulge it now.
The cabin door opened after only a knock. It was Hornblower. His face was perfectly composed, now, but he seemed about to verbalise his sentiments further when he saw Bush's patient, careful binding.
"It's just a scratch," Kennedy offered, hoping to reassure the captain, and perhaps let him know that he could ignore his previous ire, if Hornblower wanted his old comrade back.
But Hornblower's face went from composed to stony, and he shut the door on the two men without saying a word, much to Kennedy's disappointment. "I think he's vexed," he tried to joke, but Bush was looking at him with a similar expression.
"How could you say such a thing to him?" he asked, in his soft way, continuing to bandage his arm. "That was cruel, Mr. Kennedy."
"It's an old wound, William ­ really; it is just a scratch by now, and no more. I'd disregard it if I thought Dr. Sebastian would forgive me."
"After Renown, Archie!" Bush objected.
"What about Renown?" Kennedy asked, a little defensively. He would be happy to reacquaint himself with all the friends he had made aboard that vessel, but he didn't want to talk of events aboard her.
"After you were shot; you told Horatio it was just a scratch, before you collapsed, bleeding, on him." Bush looked as though he wanted to say more, but couldn't find the right words. Kennedy recalled very little of that time after the fight with the escaped Spaniards; only that Horatio came to talk to him, and he was trying to pretend that the pain wasn't serious, that he wasn't badly hurt: then Hornblower was opening his jacket, saying something about the blood and he was falling into Horatio's arms, being held fiercely by his friend. That was all; he didn't remember what either of them said, exactly.
"I don't remember, William," he said, truthfully. "I can't recall what I said, then."
Bush sighed, apparently without hesitating to think that he might be lying. "He grieved for you, Archie. We all did, I know ­ but especially him."
"I'm sorry," Kennedy replied, quietly. "I don't know what else to say. I didn't choose this: I- I would rather have been hereor at least at sea, anyway. None of this was my choice or even, mostly, my doing. I could only follow ordersthat's all." How could he explain? How could he make them understand without going into every detail, and even if he did that, would Hornblower stop long enough to listen?
There was a knock at the door. Bush invited the newcomer in, and Matthews placed a large roll of blankets, and a hammock on the sea-chest. "If you don't mind me saying, sir, you look like you could use some sleep," the old sailor said. He was staring at Kennedy as though he was a ghost, and Kennedy belayed his disappointment until he had gone; he had always been able to spare some courtesy for Matthews.
"I'll have to get used to being treated like I came back from the dead," he remarked, lightly. "Ah, wait ­ so I did!"
"What did you expect," Bush asked, disapproving of his levity. "A hero's welcome?"
"No," Kennedy responded, shortly. "Just a welcome."

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN: THE INQUIRY

The board of Inquiry did not look half so threatening to Kennedy as the Court Martial had, although it was difficult for Admiral Halliwell to appear threatening at all. However, standing before the board as a witness, technically, with no reason to fear hanging had also been far more comfortable than standing as one of the accused. It was still possible that he could hang for pushing Captain Sawyer; there had never been any guarantee that retrieving the papers would be enough.
"I think we'll start with the clearest issue," Admiral Halliwell said. "This isn't a Court Martial, but it may be necessary to hold one if this current board cannot come to a satisfactory conclusion on all matters. Is that understood?"
There came a murmured chorus of 'aye, sir'.
"Now, Commander Hornblower, concerning the sinking of Hotspur." Admiral Halliwell looked towards Hornblower, then consulted a sheaf of papers. Kennedy felt Hornblower stiffen beside him. "A most thorough report, sir. Just to satisfy the board; you don't believe you could have acted any differently in these circumstances?"
"No, sir," he replied.
The Admiral smiled unexpectedly. "As a witness to your encounter with Ennui, neither do I," he said. "Besides which, Hotspur sank in dock, which was a good twelve hours later than I expected her to, and shows considerable skill when one takes into account the damage she had sustained."
"Thank you, sir," Hornblower answered, with propriety.
A brief moment of tension as the Admiral consulted with his fellow judges. "You can consider yourself acquitted in this matter," he announced.
The tension burst like a bubble. "Congratulations, Horatio," Kennedy offered, impulsively, but at the sight of Hornblower unmoved by either the verdict or his words, recalled that he was not well disposed towards his old friend. It even hurt to see him accepting Commodore Pellew's offering of felicitations, and Kennedy turned away as far as he could, caught between the two men. Bush, behind them, was adding his words, and Kennedy was glad that, so far, neither Hornblower nor himself was demanding that he choose between them. If it came to it, Kennedy knew he would have to sacrifice Bush's friendship; he seemed to have lost so much that any new start might be better made completely new.
"Unfortunately, there are no ships who require a master and commander at present," Halliwell was saying. Kennedy looked up surprised. He had understood that Seawitch required a new captain, but supposed that a Frigate ought to have a Post Captain, especially as she was so often the flag ship, and to promote Hornblower after Hotspur sank under his command would not be a precedent the Navy would care to set. "I suggest you find a captain who requires a good First Officer; but you will retain your rank of Commander."
A hundred things he could say to relieve the blow to Hornblower remained unsaid by Kennedy. He would no more welcome consolation than any other comment made from him. It was as well that he had become used to resisting temptations by now; he was much more accomplished at it: he had always wished to be better able to hold his tongue ­ it seemed the lesson had been learned, at last.
"Commodore Pellew," the Admiral addressed, moving the papers dealing with Hornblower's fate to one side to make way for this new issue. Kennedy tried not to fidget: he was impatient to learn his own fate, and whatever happened to Pellew might offer tantalising hints about what he could expect for himself. It was an added complication that Admiral Halliwell seemed to hold Pellew in the same sort of regard that Pellew held Hornblower. The Admiral might want a scapegoat for the entire situation, loss of plans and so forth, and that would inevitably be him. He would be sacrificed in order to preserve a more valuable man, and he suddenly felt sick, again. Hadn't he done that himself once before? So could he curse at another for the same, if it came to it?
"You were charged with retrieving the proposed harbour plans, and little more, so it can hardly be said that you acted too independently or outside your orders. Your approach was somewhat unusual, and you nevertheless took a great deal upon yourself. I perceive a brand of restlessness, here, and recommend that it be discharged in more active service." Again, Kennedy felt a stiffening of posture by his side, and risked a sidelong glance. But this wasn't the reaction of a man fearing condemnation, but a man excitedly retaining his composure when he was about to receive favourable tidings.
"You will henceforth take command of the Frigate, HMS Seawitch. I suggest you find a good First Officer who requires a captain, sir."
There was no mistaking his meaning, and a suggestion from an Admiral was an order. Kennedy could guess how Pellew looked, so stole a glance at Hornblower. He looked happier; understanding how the Admiral had arranged things, and there was a good chance that he could provide employment for some of Hotspur's crew, since Pellew would trust his judgement in the matter. Kennedy tried to be more pleased than apprehensive. So far, all had worked out as well as could be expected for a man who had lost his ship.
All that awaited was his own fate, and Kennedy fought down a desire to pass out.
The feeling intensified as Admiral Halliwell dismissed Pellew and Hornblower, and he stood alone. He tried to keep his features composed, and couldn't tell how successful he was. A hand closed on his shoulder, briefly, yet he somehow expected to give a bracing smile to Hornblower, despite his old friend's current disposition. He realised with a start that he was smiling at Commodore - Captain - Pellew.
"And so to our final matter," the Admiral said. "Lt. Kennedy." He shuffled another set of papers to one side to make room for the next. The ones that were to dictate what would happen to him. Strangely, he couldn't help but wonder what Hornblower would think of the outcome (whatever that would be): Kennedy knew that he would remain composed throughout, and hide his feelings, but he couldn't help but wonder what would be going through Hornblower's mind ­ would he be pleased at good fortune? Would it take the worst fate to reconcile them; and would that be sufficient, even, to do so, if it came to it?
Kennedy stood straighter, suddenly conscious that his best uniform - thoughtfully preserved from his sea-chest by Captain Pellew - was a little too large for him, now. He tried to concentrate on the inconvenience of having his uniforms adjusted; trying to feel confident that the measure would be necessary.
If they're going to hang me, I shan't bother, he tried to joke to himself.
But he felt no better.
"I understand that you were under Commodore Pellew's orders when you first went aboard Renown."
"Yes, sir," Kennedy confirmed.
"I would like to establish something of your behaviour during the Court Martial of the officers of Renown. According to Dr. Clive's notes, you had suffered a mortal wound, and Dr. Sebastian confirms that it was a wound from which you had no reason to expect recovery."
Kennedy silently thanked Dr. Sebastian for a clever way with words. It didn't preclude his survival (obviously, as here he stood), but also confirmed that his condition had been of the most serious kind. He hoped Horatio remembered that in future; that he had truly thought he was dying.
"So you did not expect to recover?" the Admiral asked.
"No, sir," Kennedy responded. He wanted to see how Hornblower reacted to this proof of his intentions, but could not turn.
"Would it be therefore reasonable to assume that your testimony was somewhat expedient?"
"Expedient, sir?" Kennedy asked.
"Made hastily, man!" the Admiral accompanying Halliwell clarified, with a displeased tone.
"I didn't linger over my testimony, sir," Kennedy replied. Damn! He had learned something from Antonio, it seemed. He had expressed himself most 'expediently', he believed, but here he was, giving the strict truth a new face; not a lie, but an alternative perspective.
"You maintain that you were responsible for Captain Sawyer falling down the hatchway?"
"Yes, sir - I maintain that I alone was responsible," he said. There could be no other answer if Hornblower and Wellard were to remain free from suspicion.
"But being responsible is hardly the same as actually pushing, though, is it?" Halliwell said.
Kennedy couldn't think how he was supposed to answer that.
"I mean - if you require further clarification - did you actually have your hands on Captain Sawyer and apply sufficient pressure to overbalance him. Bearing in mind that Mr. Wellard and Commander Hornblower didn't see any such action, do you say they were perhaps not thorough in their own testimonies?"
"No, sir...that is - it was not quite so simple, sir." Kennedy began to feel clumsy and stupid.
"Then tell me how it was," Halliwell ordered, impatiently.
Kennedy gave himself a few moments to consider. "I was ordered to do anything within my abilities to retrieve the plans of Cramond dock; Captain Sawyer had them in his jacket, and I attempted to take them."
"Did you have your hands on him as he fell, Lt. Kennedy?"
"I can't be entirely certain, sir. When I saw him fall, I reached out to catch him. But whether I was actually touching him...I'm not sure ­ it happened too quickly. I was responsible, sir, but it wasn't my intention."
"So." Halliwell moved forwards a little and leaned on his elbows. "What you're saying is that you may or may not have actually pushed him?"
"Uh...yes, sir," Kennedy agreed, hoping he shouldn't be saying 'no, sir'.
"Well, that clears that up," Halliwell said, sarcastically, shooting exasperated looks at his fellow judges. "If this is how coherent you prove yourself in good health, I shudder to think how you managed when near-fatally injured."
The insult required an answer. Sir! I-"
"Shut up, Kennedy," Halliwell instructed.
Kennedy did so, unable to do much else. Could he have said otherwise? Could he have answered any question differently? More confidently, certainsure; but differently? He didn't think so. No - Halliwell had made him look a floundering fool. Hornblower could have no reason to respect him, here: neither could Pellew be expected to rely on him after that.
"Do you have the plans?" Halliwell asked.
"Yes, sir." At least he was able to hand the package to the Admiral. It was rather the worse for its unsympathetic treatment, but it was genuine, and it was still sealed: an unexpected bonus.
"You went into France under a false identity in order to retrieve these?"
"Yes, sir."
"Clearly you were successful," the Admiral mused. "You further managed to pass a false set to the Irish rebels - very clever. And you know there is still a risk of Court Martial; and a guilty verdict, which could see you hung? Despite your actions over the past two years or so."
"I understand that, sir," Kennedy replied, glad that his voice was clear and did not falter. Finally - a matter on which he was absolutely certain and had no doubt.
Admiral Halliwell consulted with the two others who sat on the board. His uniform suddenly felt as though it were suffocating him, despite being too big, and Kennedy just had to stand still and wait.
"I do not believe I can order a Court Martial without forcing Captain Pellew to stand trial with you; and this board is already satisfied that he has acted in the best interests of England, and you yourself have executed your orders. There will be no need of a Court Martial."
Kennedy tried not to collapse with relief. The worst could not happen; no death sentence, and no need to stand further trial. All he had to worry about was his entire future. Somehow it didn't seem so great a burden, now he was assured that he had one, although it was going to be a tremendous blow if he were dismissed from the service. But he had thought of such possibilities before, and believed he could make a life for himself away from the Navy.
"Thank you sir," he addressed. "I-"
"Shut up, Kennedy; I haven't finished. With the return of the Cramond plans, I think this incident can be said to be closed - I therefore reinstate your rank of Lieutenant, although future employment must be your own affair, but you may consider yourself an officer once more and endeavour to conduct yourself as such."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir," Kennedy responded again. He felt light headed.
"Then this Inquiry is finished."
He was free to collapse into the chair. Bush had come over the railing and was pumping his hand in congratulations, as warmly as he had offered them to Hornblower, and ever-concerned, Dr. Sebastian was asking whether he was all right. He found himself smiling and nodding, not entirely sure what questions were being asked, or whether his eager affirmatives were accurate, but now, it didn't seem to matter. The life he had wanted back; his old life ­ he had it back.

Pellew poured out six glasses of the best Madera. "It isn't often," he started, "that a Captain can offer some hospitality to his senior officers before meeting them aboard ship. Although perhaps I am being presumptuous and Lts. Bush and Kennedy have some alternative employment in mind?"
He handed the glasses around, and Kennedy was surprised to find that he was actually comfortable with Pellew at this moment.
"Wouldn't trade the opportunity to serve with you for the world, sir. After all, I've been spoiled by high standards," Bush answered with a self assured smile and acknowledgement for Hornblower. He could be completely honest and convincing as he said it. Kennedy was already smiling when he realised the irony ­ he was teased for being socially capable, and yet with Captain Pellew, where such graces should serve him well, he couldn't match either Bush or Hornblower. But he didn't lose his smile when Pellew challenged him, with a smile of his own.
"Mr. Kennedy? Have you alternative employment, sir?"
This time, he recognised the jest for what it was. "I fear I require more time before I could match Mr. Bush's eloquence, sir. I must beg further opportunity to find some suitable Shakespeare."
"And having been spoiled as a Midshipman," Bush remarked to him with a smirk, as Pellew turned away to hand Dr. Sebastian a glass.
"Gentlemen," their Captain offered before Kennedy could return fire. "To the Seawitch!"
They drank to their new ship, and then it was Hornblower's turn to offer a toast. "To better fortune than we have a right to!" he said. Hornblower had smiled all the way through this small, impromptu celebration, and was light-hearted now. However, he had not once met Kennedy's eye, or exchanged a smile with him ­ at least he wasn't being angry with him, and that was itself an improvement. But Kennedy was optimistic, by nature, and if they were to serve within the limited proximity a ship offered, then they would have to communicate, and he would have many chances to make whatever amends Hornblower felt he was owed.
He wondered whether the opportunity of Bush's offering to 'duty with friendship' would see some attempt at reconciliation, but was disappointed. Damn ­ it was his toast and he had not thought of anything.
"To Cramond Dock!" he said, saved by the drizzle of inspiration, and the matter that had been on his mind for so long. Now the secrecy was over, his curiosity about it was allowed some attention.
"Ah," said Pellew. "Perhaps to the unspoiled beauty of Cramond bay."
"Sir?" asked Kennedy, not understanding, but acquiring a sudden sinking feeling. How many more things could go wrong, now? It was over; nothing should be amiss!
"The dock isn't to be built; the Admiralty feels that any advantage of such an operation being quiet is now completely gone, and that with recent expansions at Leith, Cramond would prove impractical," Pellew told him. "Especially with England's enemies paying so much attention to it, waiting to see what will be done, it will keep them diverted from other matters and wasting their time and resources; especially if some timber and supplies drift that way."
Kennedy wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry, and had to force the former. What had he done it all for, if the dock were not to be built? He would never have tried to take the papers from Sawyer, who could have been caught before he fell; removed when he finally became too irrational for command, which was sadly inevitable. He hoped the amusement sounded genuine. Pellew looked at him sympathetically (which was unbearable), and he raised his glass. "To irony!" he said, clutching and clawing at the humour in the situation, just as he clutched to this new necessity of maintaining an act. "May it continue to save and serve us!"
The toast was taken, and he was allowed to shrink to the background through dinner and subsequent conversation, hardly touching his dinner, but answering anybody who happened to address him, to alleviate any suspicions that he was less than delighted with these new opportunities presented to them all. It would not be fair to darken the others' evening with his own bitterness, and he tried to dwell instead on this bright future; he had wanted his life back, and here it was ­ serving under the best Captain he could wish for, alongside his three most dear friends, which was an unexpected bonus. No; he had no right to curse at fate for the wasted effort concerning those papers he had so painstakingly retrieved and so devotedly guarded. The service to England had only ever been his secondary concern; he should try to remember that.
So ­ as he always had, and he hoped he always would, Lt. Kennedy held his head high, and smiled and was cheerful, determined not to let one little twist ruin all the good that had come out of the situation.
He was alive; he was reinstated, and he forced himself to laugh.